By RICHIE DAVIS – Daily Hampshire Gazette – Monday, November 16, 2015
Even in the risky world of farming, a particularly nasty risk is Phytophthora, whose very name sounds scary.
A water-mold blight that can kill entire crops of pumpkins, cucumbers or peppers, Phytophthora capsici is especially problematic because once its spores get into soil, they remain there for years, dormant until the next heavy rains. (Unlike its more common cousin, late blight, capsici’s spores are transmitted by water, not wind.)
“It can take out 100 percent of their crop,” said Katie Campbell-Nelson, UMass Extension vegetable specialist. “There’s a few farmers around here who really specialize in butternut squash, and they’re at particular risk. This is a really big problem for them.”
By all accounts, relatively dry conditions this spring and summer kept it from being a particularly bad Phytophthora year around the Pioneer Valley, but farmers such as Mike Wissemann in Sunderland and Peter Melnick in Deerfield reported losses this year.
“We’re running out of places. If you have the right weather conditions, it can rear its ugly head,” even a decade after a field was infected, said Melnick, who said his Bar-Way Farm lost about four of 10 acres planted in butternut squash, after the low-lying field got 4 or 5 inches during one warm September spell. “It’s getting to be a real challenge.”
That challenge is likely to become more intense, with good cropland limited and New England projected to become more susceptible to heavy rain events, with warmer temperatures because of climate change, according to Campbell-Nelson.
But one ray of hope could come from Campbell-Nelson’s test planting of “Caliente” brown mustard as a bio-fumigant cover crop at the UMass Crop Research and Education Farm in South Deerfield.
The brown mustard, chopped up and worked into the soil at the proper time, got the same reaction that Wasabi might draw from someone whose nose was “burned” by the release of the gas it generates, the researcher said with a laugh.
Her test this year of Brassica juncea mustard, measured against control plots of oats on infected soil in the greenhouse, showed it suppressed the disease.
“I got samples of Phytophthora that had been taken from fields around here,” she said. “There are several mating types, so I wanted to make sure we got a good sample of the disease we have in this area.”
Then she inoculated each pot with active “zoospores, which were swimming. If they had a host, they were going to find it. I was creating a disease triangle perfect for the disease: I flooded those peppers, I soaked them, I put the disease in there. I really wanted to see if I could kill those plants.”
The peppers eventually had fewer symptoms of the blight and lived longer, but Campbell-Nelson acknowledged that since it is harder under natural conditions to be certain the mustard is incorporated into the soil during active zoospore, or even semi-active sporangia cycles, it’s probably important to do repeated plantings.
Because the mustard cover — which has no commercial value, especially because it’s chopped into the soil — is from the same Brassica family as kale, it is unlikely to be used by diversified Pioneer Valley growers who want to rotate their fields to other kinds of crops.
And even with repeat cover-crop plantings, mustard is not likely to work wonders by itself, but should be seen as part of what Campbell-Nelson calls a “holistic solution” that also includes reduced tilling, well-drained soils, raised beds and rotating the Phytophthora-susceptible hosts with other crops.
“You should do everything,” she said. “This should be part of integrated management rather than relying on any one method. Never rely on any one method.”
‘No silver bullet’
Wissemann, one of a handful of area farmers who has tried using mustard as a bio-fumigant, reported after losing a pumpkin crop at his Warner Farm to the blight, “There’s no silver bullet, but it helps.”
He added, “We started swapping land with other farmers to prevent monoculture, but part of the risk of that was that Phytophthora ended up being transferred (by equipment moving from field to field.) This is all before we knew what we know now.”
And yet, he added, on a low-lying field that had once been used for growing peppers before it was inundated by the adjacent Connecticut River years ago, “We haven’t had susceptible crops on that field for, gosh, 15 years, and I put some pumpkin out there last year. And sure enough, they had a problem.”
Another recent UMass Extension research project, by plant pathologist Nicholas Brazee, tested for Phytophthora spores in the Connecticut, but found that no samples of that variety, leading to the conclusion that it only spreads the blight if it carries water over already infected soil onto another field.
In some cases, Wissemann and Melnick agreed, the pumpkins had been harvested several days before they showed signs of the disease.
Angela Madeiras, a diagnostician at the UMass Plant Diagnostic Laboratory, said that in addition to flooding of infected fields with poorly draining soil, a leading way Phytophthora spreads is by workers carrying infected soil on their boots, or on farm equipment.
But she added that it is unclear where the problem, which exists in other parts of the world, came from, or how much of Pioneer Valley farmland is affected.
“It’s hard to know how widespread it really is,” Campbell-Nelson said. “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack, because it only presents itself when there’s a flood … condition.”
She added, “Farmers who have had trouble with this disease have gone as far as suggesting they grow cucumbers on trellises, even though that’s on acres and acres, because they’re so at a loss for what to do.”
Even then, added Madeiras, the spores can be splashed up onto the crop by rain. Chemical fumigants exist, but they tend to be expensive and harder and harder to find.
The good news is that practices like using mustard as a cover crop, rotating crops, increasing soil drainage, and reducing tillage can help somewhat, Campbell-Nelson said.
By CHRIS LINDAHL – Daily Hamphshire Gazette – March 30, 2015
NORTHAMPTON — Three local businesses start the 2015 growing season as heroes of local agriculture. At a gathering in Northampton, the nonprofit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture bestowed “Local Hero” awards on Squash Inc. of Belchertown, Maple Corner Farm of Granville and Adams Farm of Athol.
The awards were presented Friday at CISA’s annual meeting at the Northampton Senior Center. “We give our ‘Local Hero’ award to individuals, organizations and businesses that are fulfilling our mission of strengthening local food and supporting the community in the growth of the local economy,” Margaret Christie, the nonprofit’s special projects director, told the audience.
While some might associate the local food movement with family businesses, Christie said that’s not always the case. Squash Inc. is owned by unrelated business partners Eric Stocker and Marge Levenson. Founded in 1973, the trucking company links farmers, food producers and the retailers, restaurants and institutions that serve their foods, Christie said.
Squash “demonstrates the long-lasting ties that can be developed in businesses that are not family businesses,” she said. The trucking company brings produce, cheese, butter, eggs and specialty foods to clients all over the state, including Amherst College, Trader Joe’s and Cooper’s Corner in Florence, according to Christie.
“It’s a really essential role in the local food system,” she said. Christie told the audience that Squash received multiple nominations for the award by area farmers, something that is unusual. She said in their nominations, farmers praised the company’s integrity and loyalty and called it essential to their own businesses.
Leon and Joyce Ripley own Maple Corner Farm in Granville. The farm has been family-owned since it was founded over 200 years ago.
After accepting the award, Leon Ripley said his grandfather and father used the land for beet farming, but over the years he’s expanded beyond produce. “We’ve worked very hard as a diversified farm,” he said.
In the winter, Ripley, his wife and their children operate a maple sugarhouse where they serve pancakes with their own maple syrup. Their 600 acres of land boasts over 12 miles of cross-country ski trails, some of which they light for nighttime skiing.
In the summer, they produce hay and have pick-your-own blueberry fields. “It’s a pretty impressive example of a family that’s figured out how to be flexible, how to be innovative, how to try new things, how to stick with it and do the hard work that it takes to build an economically viable business over generations,” Christie said.
Leon Ripley said he also sells produce and specialty jams at farmers markets in Springfield, Otis, Blandford and Lenox.
State Agricultural Commissioner John Lebeaux, who attended Friday, credited the “value-added” products like Ripley’s jams as an important factor in an increase in the number of farms in the Valley in recent years. “The Massachusetts farmer has to be pretty clever and innovative,” he said.
The other recipient of the “Local Hero” award was Adams Farm, a slaughterhouse in Athol. The slaughterhouse has been in the Adams family since 1919. It is owned and operated by Beverly Mundell and her children, Richard Adams and Noreen Heath. Ten of Mundell’s grandchildren also work in the business, according to its website.
The number of family members running Adams Farm “demonstrates how this family has made a very broad and deep commitment to this business,” Christie said.
Christie told the audience that meat cutting is specialized, and as the largest slaughterhouse in New England, Adams Farm makes a big difference in the local food economy of Massachusetts.
“They need to train their workforce to do skilled and tricky work,” she said. “Local meat production in our area would be much, much more difficult if they were not here doing the work that they’re doing.”
Chris Lindahl can be reached at email@example.com.
It’s so easy to separate the grocery store from the farm. Eggs come from chickens, obviously, but on a weekly trip to Stop and Shop it’s hard to remember that eggs don’t just come from cardboard cartons. What’s more, we’re even made to believe that all eggs are created equal. You might feel good about buying cage-free eggs, but if there’s really no difference between the eggs then it’s not worth worrying about, right?
Wrong! The color of an egg’s shell doesn’t really matter, but what’s inside can vary widely based on the life of the chicken it came from, and the difference is big enough to see. Try putting one supermarket egg in a bowl next to Gabor’s Eggs from All Things Local, and the difference is clear. Gabor’s eggs have a richer, more brightly colored yolk. The yolks stand taller, they’re stronger, and they even taste better. And as you might expect, the difference doesn’t come from chemicals and hormones, but from something even more unusual: treating chickens like chickens.
It turns out, letting chickens do what chickens like to do causes them to produce better eggs. This means letting them out of the little cages (commonly called battery cages) that commercially raised chickens live in and letting them outside. Gabor Lukacs, an Amherst resident who raises chickens of his own, knows exactly what this means. His chickens live in a wide area around his garden, picking at bugs and grass and choosing whether they want to stand in the shade of their summer enclosure or their more sheltered winter enclosure. He knows they have enough space, because “Some space in their area is still covered in grass, which means they haven’t had time to get to it all – it means they have plenty of room.” Letting chickens act like chickens means their stress levels are at a minimum; they don’t have to fight each other for space, they have a variety of food to eat, and they can focus on living happy chicken lives.
It may sound surprising to hear that Gabor’s eggs aren’t certified organic. They’re free to live in the open, and aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics. But Gabor raises his chickens in an environment that’s about something even more important: he focuses on living locally. In his own words, “Local creates community. Organic doesn’t.” Today, the term ‘organic’ is regulated by the government, which unfortunately means that it’s expensive to become certified, and the term doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is produced in a sustainable, humane way. Gabor’s chickens and gardens are designed to be sustainable; he doesn’t have to buy commercial chicken food or fertilizers, but relies on the resources in and around Amherst. This includes recycling food waste from the All Things Local café; chickens eat grains, of course, and they love the vegetable leftovers like carrot peels. So even though they’re not certified organic, they are local, sustainable, and produce delicious eggs!
The benefits of these eggs go even deeper than taste. All eggs provide some level of vitamin D, an essential nutrient that plays an important role in bone health and digestion. One study found that free range chickens living outdoors produced eggs with four times more vitamin D than chickens living in battery cages. Imagine eating four supermarket eggs to get the amount of vitamin D in just one of Gabor’s eggs! It’s important to note that just because eggs are labeled ‘free range’ doesn’t mean they have all the space they need; commercial free range chickens can still be packed together, which makes them stressed out and more likely to fight. Another study found that chickens treated similarly to Gabor’s had twice as much carotenoids than commercially produced eggs. Carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A, which is essential for vision, and can also act as antioxidants, which protect the body from damaging chemicals. Carotenoids give foods a yellow or orange color, which is why Gabor’s eggs are so much brighter than those bought from the grocery store.
Why don’t all eggs just get these benefits? It’s simple – chicken farms don’t know how to manipulate hormones and nutrition to produce eggs as good as Gabor’s. The simple truth is that there’s no substitute for chickens’ natural diet and habits when it comes to producing good eggs. This is food that you can feel good about buying, and really enjoy eating! If you haven’t already tried them, pick up some of Gabor’s Eggs next time you’re in All Things Local and see the difference for yourself.
 Kuhn J, Schutkowski A, Kluge H, Hirche F, Stangl, G. Free-range farming: a natural alternative to produce vitamin D-enriched eggs. Nutrition. 2014;30(4):481-4.
 Hesterberg K, Schanzer S, Patzelt A, et al. Raman spectroscopic analysis of the carotenoid concentration in egg yolks depending on the feeding and housing conditions of the laying hens. Journal of Piophotonics. 2012;5:33-39.
Wait a sec. Nick, Caspar and Jared: Are those unconventional girls’ names now, like Kennedy and Reagan? Because if you’re looking for a farm-fresh tomato in the city this summer, you’re likely to find a woman growing it.
In recent years, chefs, writers, academics, politicians, funders, activists and entrepreneurs have jumped on the hay wagon for urban agriculture. New York now counts some 900 food gardens and farms, by the reckoning of Five Borough Farm, a research and advocacy project.
Yet city farmers will tell you that the green-collar work on these small holdings is the province of a largely pink-collar labor force. Cecilia, not Caspar. And they’ll provide the staffing numbers to show it.
This is where the speculation begins — and, inevitably, the stereotypes. Are women more willing to nurture their communities (and also their beet greens)? Are men preoccupied with techie farm toys like aquaponics? Is gender the reason the radio at the Queens Farm washing station is always stuck on Beyoncé and Alicia Keys?
More significant, if urban ag work comes to be seen as women’s work, what will that mean for the movement’s farming model, mission and pay?
Counting New York’s urban farmers and market food gardeners can seem like a parlor game: part math, part make-believe. Data on gender is scarce to nonexistent.
The federal 2012 Census of Agriculture isn’t much help. It suggested 42 farm “operators” in New York were men and 31 were women. But the census published data from just 31 city farms. (Under confidentiality rules, it doesn’t reveal which farms participated.) And its definitions fail to capture New York’s unique abundance of nonprofit farms and community gardens.
A “farm,” by census standards, is any place that grew and sold (or normally would have sold) $1,000 worth of agricultural products in a year. Yet surveys from the parks department’s GreenThumb program suggest that some 45 percent of the city’s hundreds of community food gardens donate their harvest to neighborhood sources and food pantries. Blair Smith, who compiles New York’s data for the U.S.D.A., explained, “Those are not farm businesses, at least from our standpoint.”
New York’s urban farmers — the people who actually work in the field — offer a sharply different head count of what you might call bulls and cows. Of the 19 farms and farm programs that contributed information for this article, 15 reported having a majority of women among their leadership, staff, youth workers, students, apprentices and volunteers. (Of the remaining four, one claimed gender parity and another hired two men this summer from a seasonal applicant pool of 18 men and 30 women.)
It’s a snapshot, not a statistically rigorous poll. Still, the farms, from all five boroughs, represent a broad sample of New York’s particular growing models: a commercial rooftop farm; community gardens; and farms attached to schools, restaurants, parks, churches, housing developments and community organizations. The sample included two city-based farmer-training programs and two out-of-state sustainable farm-education schools and fellowships. These are the types of programs that mold future urban farmers.
Describing their own farms and gardens, managers suggested that women make up 60 to 80 percent of field workers, organizers and educators. Applicant pools are similarly unbalanced for summer postings, internships and certification programs.
Farm School NYC, an affiliate of the food-access nonprofit Just Food, “is 100 percent female-run,” said its director, Onika Abraham. But then, she added, “I’m the only staff person.”
More important, Farm School NYC receives 150 to 200 applicants annually for professional agriculture instruction. For this year’s entering 30-person class, Ms. Abraham said, “the breakdown for applicants was 76 percent women and 24 percent male.” (Applications for next year are open through Sept. 15.)
The gender divide appears to exist in salaried posts and volunteer work alike. For 18 years, Steve Frillmann has led Green Guerillas, which provides support and materials to more than 200 community garden groups. Most of these sites lie in central Brooklyn, Harlem and the South Bronx, and three-quarters of their volunteer leaders, he estimates, are women. So, too, women typically represent 75 to 80 percent of the applicants who want to join Green Guerillas on an AmeriCorps stipend.
It’s challenging work, and Mr. Frillmann, 49, is happy to hire whoever wants to do it. “To be honest with you, we’ve never really lifted and looked under the hood and tried to figure out why,” he said.
At the extreme, Edible Schoolyard NYC runs a food and garden-teaching program with two growing plots and a staff of 16. Sixteen of these employees are women.
Kate Brashares, 40, who is the group’s executive director, said: “It’s a little unusual we don’t have any men on staff at the moment. There are usually one or two.”
Ms. Brashares believes that the diversity of her employees should reflect the low-income communities where they work. That diversity includes gender. “We talk about wanting to get a few more men in the place,” she said. “It’s funny, we haven’t talked about it that much, though. It’s one of those things that just sort of happened. As we’ve gotten bigger, it’s gotten more obvious.”
Less obvious is why the discrepancy exists. Ms. Brashares speculated about the prevalence of women in education and nonprofit careers. But ultimately, she concluded, “I honestly don’t know.”
Karen Washington has been observing the community garden scene for more than 25 years from her plot in the Garden of Happiness, a couple of blocks from the Bronx Zoo. She also organizes the Black Urban Growers conference and a long list of other food and neighborhood initiatives. This roster may explain why Ms. Washington, 60, is prone to make work calls at 10 o’clock at night, say, after teaching a class on season-extending hoop houses, or on the way home from running La Familia Verde farmers’ market.
Nowadays, she sees a cohort in her gardens that she gauges to be 80 percent women. “It was more 60/40 back in the early days,” Ms. Washington said. “Mostly Southern blacks and Puerto Ricans. They were in their 40s and they’re in their 80s now.”
Explaining the gender gap on a community garden level, she said, “a lot of it, from my point of view, had to do with the fact women lived longer than men.”
The stereotypical image of an American farmer may be a white man of late middle age captaining a $450,000 combine in an air-conditioned cockpit, high above a flokati of corn. But this profile is a poor match for farmers in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa — that is, the groups that often predominate in New York’s community food gardens. Nevin Cohen, 52, an assistant professor at the New School and an expert on urban food issues, points to a telling statistic from a United Nations special rapporteur: “Women are 80 percent of the global agricultural labor force.”
Many of the women who farm in Bushwick with Maggie Cheney possess experience in small-scale agriculture. They’ve long fed their families out of extensive kitchen gardens (as Colonial-era immigrant women did in New England). Ms. Cheney, 30, is the director of farming and education for the food-access group EcoStation:NY. And on the group’s two growing sites, she said: “I tend to work with a lot of recent immigrants from Africa, Mexico, Ecuador. And the islands: Jamaica and Haiti, the Dominican Republic.”
Ms. Cheney’s youth interns (five boys and nine girls) include the children of some of those immigrants. Yet wherever they were born, the youth growers at the Bushwick Campus Farm do not approach New York gardens as virgin soil.
Their fathers may have experienced farm labor as a harsh and exploitative activity, Ms. Cheney said. These men are not necessarily the easiest people to recruit for a hot afternoon of unearthing potatoes. By contrast, “I see a lot of girls interested because they may have that positive relationship to being the ones who cook in the family and buy the food in the market.”
She added, “The ones that I see, their roles at home are very gendered.” The politics of the New York “food justice” movement start at progressive and run to radical. But the connection between women and urban farming can appear traditional and even conservative.
Born and raised on the Lower East Side, Ms. Abraham, 40, recalls visiting her family’s black farmstead in Alabama. She said: “My grandfather grew row crops: cotton, soybeans and corn. He worked the fields. My grandma was home with a large vegetable garden and chickens.”
Put another way: “My grandmother grew the food; he grew the money. And I think maybe the scale of what we do in the city relates more to this kitchen garden.”
The Five Borough Farm project identified three commercial farms in New York, all of them sophisticated rooftop operations. Gotham Greens, for example, runs two (and soon three) climate-controlled hydroponic greenhouses in Gowanus and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. (Next stop: Jamaica, Queens.)
Of the company’s 50-odd employees, more than two-thirds are men, said the company’s 33-year-old co-founder, Viraj Puri. “At Gotham Greens, our approach is more plant-science and engineering focused and less ‘gardening’ focused,” Mr. Puri wrote in an email. He posited that this orientation may account for the different gender skew.
Beyond these few enterprises, the city’s farms exist not just to grow okra, but to advance a shopping list of social goals. These include recreation, nutrition, public health, environmental stewardship, ecological services, food access and security, community development, neighborhood cohesion, job training, senior engagement and education. We ask a lot of our gardens.
Mara Gittleman, who jointly runs the Kingsborough Community College farm program, at the end of Manhattan Beach, often sees urban farming likened in the news media to “the new social work, or this thing you do for poor people.” In response, Ms. Gittleman, 26, founded the research project Farming Concrete to record and publicize the surprising yield raised in community gardens. These are vegetables that come not from the glittering glass on high, but from the ground up.
Be that as it may, if you’re trying to account for why so many college-educated women are attracted to urban agriculture, nearly everyone agrees that a social calling is the place to start. “Definitely, the most visible influx is young white people, and I’m one of them,” Ms. Gittleman said.
If urban farming were just about the crops, it would be cheaper and easier to do it 50 miles north. Urban farming, however, is not a solitary or single-minded activity. Along with the weeding and pruning, the job description includes sowing community interest and reaping grants.
Kennon Kay, the 31-year-old director of agriculture at Queens Farm, said: “What makes this farm different is the element of public interaction. We have over half a million visitors a year.”
The farm staff currently numbers two men and five women, which is actually a bumper crop of gents. And Ms. Kay takes pains to say: “I don’t want to knock the guys. They’re great.”
That said, in her experience, “Women have been extremely effective in multitasking, planning, communicating and being the representatives of this public organization.”
Inevitably, there’s an inverse to saying that women are attracted to work that involves children and the elderly, caring and social justice. In short, you’re implying that men don’t care, or care a lot less.
This is what you might call the men-as-sociopaths hypothesis (M.A.S.H.), and Nick Storrs, 29, who manages the Randalls Island Park Alliance Urban Farm, does not buy it. “I would refute the claim that guys are sociopaths,” he said.
Having cheerfully dispensed with that libel, he struggled to explain why men seem less interested in the social goals of community agriculture. “I don’t know, because I am interested in it,” Mr. Storrs said.
So where are the men?
“Wall Street,” Ms. Washington said (a theory that may not be inconsistent with M.A.S.H.).
The Bronx’s vegetable plots, she will tell you, are not insulated from what goes on outside the garden gates. “A lot of our men of color are incarcerated,” she said. “Huge problem. If you tell a 21-year-old man just out of jail to go into farming, he’s going to look at you as if you have two heads.”
Or in the words of Esther Liu, 25, a rooftop farmer at the Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project: “Men? Perhaps they want a living wage.”
The time has arrived, as it always does, to talk about money. The pay for community-based agriculture starts low and climbs over time to not much higher.
Ms. Cheney endeavors to pay her youth interns $8.30 to $9.30 an hour and the Bushwick farm managers $17 an hour. Farmers with longer tenure may earn $20. These are decent wages in agriculture, Ms. Cheney said. Yet they’re hardly enough to keep up with the climbing rents in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Deborah Greig, 32, oversees the crowded market at East New York Farms, leads the gardener-education program, manages dozens of youth workers, and cultivates specialty crops like dasheen and bitter melon. (And some 65 to 70 percent of her farm staff, apprentices and youth interns are women.) “I get paid $37,000 a year,” Ms. Greig said. “I started at $28,000 or $29,000, which was huge at the time. And I have insurance included.”
The permanence of the job, which she has held for seven years, is a boon to Ms. Greig and to the community where she works. Ultimately, Ms. Abraham, of Farm School NYC, argues that only stable employment will make urban farming viable for neighborhood women — and men — who lack the safety net of a college degree and family support.
For her part, Ms. Greig is probably underpaid. Don’t tell anyone, but she would do the job for less. “People don’t expect to be paid very much doing this work,” she said. “It’s a labor of love to a certain extent. I don’t think we’ve come up with a hard and fast model to pay people exceedingly well for doing nonprofit urban-farming work.”
Click on the image below for the radio version of this report!Today, the idea of “buying local” is firmly rooted in our culture.
Farmers markets flourish almost every day of the week in western Massachusetts. Community-supported farms offer the chance to buy a share of a crop. And lots of farm stands and retail stores trumpet the sale of local produce.
The value of a “local” perspective is even rubbing off on other parts of the Pioneer Valley’s economy, including financial investing. In our series, A New Kind of Local, we look at the growth and the challenges of the movement, starting with a history of local food.
Local as a movement
The idea that consumers can help preserve farms by choosing to buy locally-grown food first began to take root more than 40 years ago.
“A lot of us thought we could change the world,” Rich Pascale says.
Pascale, 65, started farming in Franklin County in 1974. It was a time when young people moved to rural areas to build self sufficient lives.
“Live simply, grow your own food,” he says. “And from that point it was like, ‘We have to make some money,’ so we have to sell our own food.”
He’s been selling at the Greenfield Farmers Market for four decades.
“So these are $3.50 for the six packs,” he says of his goods. “And these are $2.75 for tomato plants.”
A way to stabilize prices
In the mid 1970s, as more young people, like Pascale, were choosing to farm, the state was losing farms. Nearly half of them went out of business between 1964 and 1974
“The Massachusetts agricultural economy was on the downward skids,” says Greg Watson, commissioner of the state Department of Agricultural Resources. “We were losing about 10,000 acres of farmland a year. And I think a lot of people had just given up.”
But not everyone.
“It was the summer of 1973 and Governor Sargent called me,” recalls Ray Goldberg, a professor emeritus from Harvard Business School.
Massachusetts Governor Francis Sargent asked Goldberg to head up an emergency food commission.
“We had crop failure around the world,” he says. “Food prices were rising faster than general inflation.”
And the OPEC oil embargo forced up petroleum prices. Goldberg says the commission found Massachusetts was highly dependent on food from distant places.
“We were a high-cost food area compared to any other state in the nation,” says Goldberg. “So there was a great deal of encouragement to get more locally grown production.”
The commission’s work led to new policies. One program allows farmers to sell their development rights to the state, preserving more than 70,000 acres. The state launched an advertising campaign, with the slogan: “Massachusetts Grown and Fresher.” And it helped expand the number of farmers markets.
From farm field to parking lot
Agriculture Commissioner Greg Watson was a young man in 1978 when he was hired by the state to launch markets in poor areas of Boston. Watson says, at first, neither African-American residents nor the white farmers trusted each other.
“The first reaction of farmers to come into the city was ‘I won’t come out alive!’” Watson recalled. “And the residents were saying ‘Why should we go to the trouble of making the parking lot in the South End available for rich farmers to come in and get richer?’ So there were these really solid stereotypes, both of them really far from reality.”
Watson was able to sign up 20 farmers to come to the grand opening of the Dorchester market. It was a big deal. The lieutenant governor was there, and a bunch of television cameras.
“Opened up at 9 o’clock, not a single farmer,” he says. “About 9:20, people were getting impatient, they were nervous, a pickup truck comes down the street.”
That was the only farmer to show up. But Watson says that night on the news, instead of pictures of an empty street, the cameras had zoomed in.
“All you saw was the farmer, his wife and his daughter,” he says. “They couldn’t get the food off the truck fast enough. People were clamoring. Next week we had 20 farmers.”
Back then, there were fewer than 10 farmers markets statewide. Today, there are nearly 300.
Although the middleman is cut out, in some cases the food at farmers markets costs more than at supermarkets. Watson remembers one customer who explained why she was willing to pay more.
“‘Because my kids eat it,’” Watson recalls her saying. “They were eating raw peas. ‘If I pay a little less and half of it gets scraped into the garbage is that economical?’”
Today, many farmers markets take food stamps. Watson says perhaps farms could become more efficient to lower the price of food.
“Are there things we can do to help make this not just accessible, but also affordable? And those are challenges,” he says.
A face on the food
The state has gained back many of the farms it lost 40 years ago. But they’re smaller now – about half the size.
“Eggplant, cherry tomatoes, okra, tomatillos. We have about 30 varieties of hot peppers here,” says Allison Landale, as she points out neatly tended rows of crops she and her husband Dean cultivate on 15 acres in Deerfield.
The farm has been in her mother’s family since the 1800s. Her father farmed it. Allison says when she first started working with him in the early 1990s, at times it was tough.
“Local wasn’t anywhere near what it is today,” she says.
The farm’s sales have tripled in the past five years. The Landales say the nonprofit CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture gives them a lot of support. CISA first developed the Local Hero advertising campaign in 1999.
Back in Deerfield, Dean Landale is pounding stakes for tomato plants. For him, the concept of “local” makes farming more personal.
“We see our customers,” Landale says. “We don’t ship to a supermarket someplace. So our face is basically attached to what we sell.”
That connection between farmer and consumer is strong today. But local food advocates are still hard at work.
There’s a push to bring more processing facilities, including slaughterhouses. One group says by 2060, New England farmers could produce half of the food consumed here.
A demonstration plot at a research station in South Deerfield is doing just that.
“We have shown that we can get 90 percent of the yield of a pasture with solar panels compared with not having them as long as we leave enough space between clusters of panels,” he said.
Cattle and sheep graze beneath them. The animals also benefit from the shady spots the panels create.
The initial installation was 70 panels, which generate 26 kilowatts of electricity on less than a quarter acre. They are seven feet off the ground and are mounted on individual posts. The wiring connecting them is above ground.
Herbert said the demonstration plot experiments with spacing and configuration to find the sweet spot that allows maximum sun to reach the ground so the vegetation gets what it needs while the rest is captured for generating electricity. He also experiments with ways of driving poles into the ground to support the panels while minimally disturbing the soil.
“It’s a simple thing, but nobody is doing it,” according to Herbert, who said the demonstration plot, which has been up for almost four years, is the only one of its kind in the country.
Herbert believes that ideas like this one will get more attention in the years ahead as dilemmas around the balance between using land to grow food while generating significant amounts of alternative energy become more acute.
“My position is that we should make solar panels compatible with agriculture,” said Herbert. He thinks that in the future we will see dual use solar installations that can also be used for growing vegetables.
According to a description of this work on Herbert’s website, “only solar has the potential to substantially power the state while only using a reasonable amount of the state’s landmass.”
Herbert said he understands the benefits to farmers of leasing out land for a couple of decades to host solar arrays on fields they might otherwise sell to developers.
But he doesn’t think growing crops and generating electricity should be mutually exclusive.
A Second Career, Happily in the Weeds – New York Times – JUNE 20, 2014
By DAVID WALLIS
MARBLETOWN, N.Y. — STANDING at the edge of an overgrown field, Charles Noble, 65, cups his hands around his mouth and yells, “Mooowaaaahhh.” He hopes his bovine impression will motivate 68 cattle to follow him to a nearby creek. His herd is apparently not thirsty, preferring to munch on tall grass.
When Mr. Noble, a retired actuary and school administrator, started Movable Beast Farm with his wife in 2006, he would “get totally freaked out and have a battle of wills with the cows.” Now he reacts with calm and temporarily stops herding to avoid upsetting the animals.
“Stress is the worst thing you can do for them in terms of quality” of meat, said Mr. Noble, a trim, tanned man with a white goatee. He sells grass-fed beef primarily by word of mouth. “In order to make any money in agriculture at this scale, you really need to be direct marketing,” said Mr. Noble, whose company earned a profit for the first time last year.
But money is not his primary motivation. Mr. Noble waited much of his life to realize his cowboy dreams. “When I was younger,” he said, “I never wanted to work inside at a desk,” so, of course, he said, he spent “30 years working inside, at a desk.”
Though new agricultural enterprises typically demand long hours and physical stamina, many retirees turn to farming as a way to keep active and earn an income — or, like Mr. Noble, to at least supplement Social Security. The White House’s 2013 Economic Report of the President notes that “the average age of U.S. farmers and ranchers has been increasing over time.” One-third of beginning farmers — defined by the federal government as having been in business fewer than 10 years — “are over age 55, indicating that many farmers move into agriculture only after retiring from a different career.”
Brett Olson, co-founder of Renewing the Countryside, a nonprofit in Minneapolis, has noticed more gray hair at the New Farmer Summit, a conference for aspiring agrarians. Mr. Olson’s organization offers a workshop at the annual event that it used to call Young Organic Stewards but renamed New Organic Stewards in 2012 to “be more inclusive,” he said.
Local, state and federal programs devote considerable resources to promoting agricultural start-ups. Many states offer preferential tax treatment of farmland. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass., compiles the various tax breaks on its online database.
The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency recently reduced the paperwork required to apply for its microloan program, which provides recipients with low-interest loans of up to $35,000.
Age, suggests Krysta Harden, deputy secretary of the federal Agriculture Department, can be a benefit rather than a barrier. She says she believes new farmers can use business skills, like management and marketing, developed during other careers. “My mother always told me we’re a family business, but we’re a business,” Ms. Harden said.
Lisa Kivirist, who coaches novice farmers as coordinator of the Rural Women’s Project at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, notes that many of her older students are poised for success. “When they come into farming at midlife or early retirement, they know there’s only so many years left,” Ms. Kivirist said. “There’s a stronger focus and a more realistic sense of a plan.”
Saundra C. Winokur, 74, acknowledges that she lacked a formal plan when she founded Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard in Elmendorf, Tex., in 1997. “I just threw myself into it and learned on the job, though I probably would have not made as many mistakes as I did had I written a business plan,” Ms. Winokur said. If she had written a business plan, however, she might have become discouraged. “There were no olive orchards at the time in Texas,” she said. “It was thought that it couldn’t be done.”
Ms. Winokur, a native Texan who worked as an elementary-school teacher and earned a doctorate in developmental psychology, traveled extensively to research olive production. She noticed that renowned olive-producing regions — southern Spain, southern Italy and Egypt — “looked a lot like Texas.” In 1997, she bought 276 acres of sandy land, which she describes as “oceanfront property without the ocean.”
She planted 450 trees, but lost about half in the first winter because she had yet to master irrigation. Despite that setback, her business has flourished. In addition to producing olive oil, she owns a nursery and a restaurant. Ms. Winokur has had considerable help along the way. Experienced farmers in the area served as mentors. One neighbor briefed her on the history of her land, which had long been fallow when she bought it.
She later received a $98,000 Agriculture Department Value-Added Producer Grant, which helps farmers create derivative products from crops. Ms. Winokur used the money to market her olive-leaf jelly and hire a chef. The grant “gave me that kick-start I needed to move the business to the next level,” she said.
When she started her orchard, Ms. Winokur could hoist 80-pound bags on her own, but she now must rely on employees to handle strenuous chores. She estimates that it took her 13 years to recruit a “first rate” team and advises new farmers to pay well but hire carefully: “Don’t hire because you’re desperate, the first person who comes through the door. Really take your time.”
Ms. Winokur considers her teaching background a training ground for farming. When she encountered confused children, “I could see that they were looking at me with a blank look,” she said, “then I would have to shift gears, another avenue to explain a concept to them. And I think that’s what you have to do in farming: If something doesn’t work, you have to be willing to shift.”
That lesson is not lost on Debra Sloane, who recently started a backyard farm in Washington, Conn. She suffered a blow to her self-esteem last year when Cisco Systems eliminated her position as director of global health care. “I went through a grieving process,” said Ms. Sloane, who still uses corporate jargon like “customer interface” when discussing farming. After Cisco, she planned to grow exotic mushrooms, having received encouragement from several farm market managers. She then took two seminars for “mushroom nerds” and scrapped the idea because of the capital investment required and her desire to work outdoors. “You need a lab,” Ms. Sloane said of mushroom production. “You need to have a grow room with the right temperature, humidity, air circulation, and I said, ‘Uh-uh.’ ”
Instead, Ms. Sloane, a petite woman in a gray long-sleeve T-shirt, jeans and bright blue plastic shoes covered in grass clippings, decided to sell produce at several farmers’ markets, manufacture a vegan cereal and start a C.S.A. — a community-supported agriculture program. Her 11 customers pay in advance for weekly allotments of fruit and vegetables, easing her company’s cash flow.
Ms. Sloane, who declined to give her age, also started working out more, because while she once managed a small staff, she now must count on herself to plant, weed and harvest. She runs twice a week and trains at a nearby CrossFit gym four times a week. Her biggest challenge, she predicts, “is actually not physical but mental. It’s really figuring out how to be exact enough to know that I’m going to have enough to fill 11 bags all summer.”
She forecasts a “four-figure” profit in her first year and, like most farmers, will supplement her agricultural income with a second job; she is working part time as a consultant for Avizia Inc., a telemedicine technology company.
She acknowledges that working for a giant multinational corporation was “ego satisfying,” but she finds that life on the farm is “soul satisfying” — and humbling, especially when she must ask for help from more experienced colleagues. “I can tell you this,” she said near her raised beds of asparagus and strawberries. “I wasn’t humble at Cisco. My daughters have said, ‘You are so much nicer now.’ ”
Daily Hampshire Gazette Editorial – Friday, May 23, 2014
On the Gazette’s front page Friday, reporter Rebecca Everett told the story of Abundance Farm, a project taking shape on one acre between Congregation B’nai Israel and the Northampton Water Department.
The idea is to plant fruit trees and vegetables, creating what organizers call a “food justice farm” that will provide produce for the nearby Northampton Survival Center, provide an outdoor classroom for students of the Jewish day school and be a place where everyone involved can get closer to the Valley’s agricultural roots.
The story was only the latest of many that Everett, who grew up on a dairy farm in Williamsburg, has produced that chronicle the Valley’s agricultural life. Over the past year, she has reported on the Northampton Farmers Market’s 40 years of success. She has described after-school programs at the Crimson and Clover Farm in Florence where kids dig in the dirt for carrots and beets. She has interviewed four young farmers who are setting up what they hope will be a successful economic model at the Stone Soup Cooperative Farm in Hadley.
And she has told the stories of local family farms dealing with complicated questions: Will the next generation want to take over? And if so, what changes will they need to make to be economically viable? Will there be a future for small farms in the age of industrial agribusiness?
Taken as a whole, Everett’s stories put human faces on a newly released report — described in a piece by Everett in the May 15 Gazette — that takes stock of farming in the Valley and finds encouraging trends and signs of resurgence.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture, an update of a federal study last compiled in 2007, found that:
• The number of farms in Hampshire and Franklin counties rose from 1,452 to 1,579.
• The amount of land being used for farming in the two counties increased by 8.7 percent.
• Farm product sales in Hampshire County increased from $38 million in 2007 to $49 million in 2012.
• And in Hampshire County, the number of farms selling direct to consumers increased from 160 to 221; the number of CSA (community supported agriculture) farms tripled from 20 to 67; and the value of direct sales of farm products rose from $3.3 million to $4.45 million.
The numbers reflect trends, such as the interest in buying locally grown and produced food, that have moved mainstream, at least in these parts.
The report, to be sure, included bad news as well. It confirmed what was already known, namely that dairy and tobacco operations, traditional mainstays of agriculture in western Massachusetts, continue to slide, owing to a mix of economic and regulatory factors. In Hampshire County, dairy farms declined from 29 in 2007 to 18 in 2012, while the number of tobacco farms fell to nine, down from 33 in 2007.
Despite those losses, Everett’s reporting, and the numbers compiled by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, suggest that farming remains an integral part of this area’s economy and its identity.
It suggests that some young people who could just as easily pursue other options are choosing farming and that older-generation farmers are adapting their businesses to change with the times.
Last year, in a story about the Valley’s tobacco farmers, Everett interviewed Edward and Catherine Kelly, who have farmed in Hadley for decades. They talked about the ups and downs of the tobacco business, its uncertain future — and its rewards.
“When you’re done, the fields are empty,” Catherine Kelly said, “and you can see the results of your labor.”
That seems to be one of the rewards new generations of farmers are discovering for themselves.
By REBECCA EVERETT – Staff Writer – Daily Hampshire Gazette – April 14, 2014
HADLEY — Most farmers will tell you that cooperation is crucial to keeping a farm running like a well-oiled threshing machine.
But at Stone Soup Farm Cooperative in Hadley, cooperation is everything.
Four young farmers formed the worker-owned farm collective last fall and they have been working together to grow greenhouse vegetables and raise chickens since. Susanna Harro, 24, David DiLorenzo, 26, Amanda Barnett, 29, and Jarrett Man, 30, are owners as well as employees at the 81 Rocky Hill Road co-op.
Stone Soup Farm Cooperative is probably the first worker-owned farm co-op in the state, said Lynda Brushett, of the Shelburne Falls-based Cooperative Development Institute, who advises people in the agricultural, fisheries and food industries on starting cooperatives.
“It’s a beautiful model. You need more than one person to run a vegetable farm,” she said.
“We’re sharing the risk and the rewards,” DiLorenzo said while the four talked and munched on spinach leaves in one of their greenhouses Wednesday. “That’s just a good way to live.”
They decided to start the co-op for numerous reasons, including the lure of owning instead of just working on a farm and the dream of forming an equitable business with good friends.
After five years of working and managing area farms, Man bought the Rocky Hill Road farmland and started working it three years ago. He said the communal nature of farming is what drew him to it in the first place, and a co-op reinforces those values. He approached DiLorenzo and Barnett, who are married, and Harro last summer with the co-op idea.
“I thought it would be a more meaningful way of farming, and these are the people I felt best about farming with,” he said. “So I went to them and invited them to come research and implement a co-op together.” The group officially organized as a co-op in November and is selling community supported agriculture, or CSA, shares for the summer.
There have historically been many co-ops in the agricultural industry, mostly those made up of member farms that join forces to better market and sell their products — think Cabot Creamery or the Pioneer Valley Growers Association.
Brushett expects that more and more farmers, especially young ones, will be following the lead of Stone Soup and the few other worker-owned farms in Vermont, California and Quebec.
“Recently, young people that are wanting to farm, wanting to farm with each other, and wanting access to land are looking at the co-op model as a way to do that,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing that trend around our area.”
Brushett is helping them get started. She worked with lead author Faith Gilbert to create a free guide to cooperative farming. It was downloaded over 1,000 times in the first two weeks after it was released Feb. 26 on TheGreenhorns.net, a nonprofit that supports young farmers.
All kinds of co-ops are on the rise now, Brushett said. The Cooperative Development Institute fields several calls per week from people interested in starting market and cafe co-ops, child care co-ops, arts co-ops and others.
She credited the trend to a growing interest in socially responsible business ownership and workers’ urge to be “more than just a cog” in a company.
“It might be a consequence of the big recession,” she said. “People were losing jobs and deciding to be more in control of their lives and wanting to create more democratic businesses.”
And when people have a stake in the business, they often make better workers, Brushett said.
“They’re invested and everyone’s equal. You have colleagues you can trust to close the gate before they leave for the day,” she said.
That’s how it is at the Hadley farm cooperative, DiLorenzo said — and why the four friends chose the name Stone Soup Farm, which Man had used for his previous farm business.
In the folk story “Stone Soup,” a stranger with nothing comes to a town and pretends to make soup from just water and a stone, and convinces residents to contribute vegetables and other ingredients until it is a real soup.
“We’re each bringing a little piece to this,” DiLorenzo said.
Building a co-op
The foursome started working together to build their co-op last summer, while simultaneously working out the formal structure of the co-op. They started an LLC, established an official path to membership for future worker-owners, and made the co-op the owner of equipment.
DiLorenzo said the co-op model and Man sharing his farmland has made it possible for himself, Barnett and Harro to own a farm. “The three of us wouldn’t be owners without this, and it’s allowed us to pool our resources and talent to make this possible,” he said.
They come from different places and backgrounds, but all their stories share a common thread: none of them studied agriculture at college, but started toiling on farms after graduation and fell in love with working the land.
Man, from central Massachusetts, came to the area to attend Hampshire College. He worked on several farms before buying the Rocky Hill Road property and starting his own small farm.
Barnett, from Sharon, said she was always interested in agriculture because her mother grew up on a farm. She met DiLorenzo, a University of Massaschusetts Amherst graduate from New Hampshire, while the two worked at local farms. He apprenticed at the Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland.
Harro, from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., came here to apprentice at the Kitchen Garden. “I didn’t think I’d stick around long,” she said. “I definitely never thought I’d be owning a farm.”
Of course, owning a farm is not all upside. “We’re sharing the benefits of the work and also the stress of owning a business,” Barnett said.
They have divided up management responsibilities and had countless meetings to make decisions collectively. “At all times, you’re trying to strike a balance between the efficiency of one person just making a decision and having a group decision with input from everyone,” DiLorenzo said.
Each person manages a specific part of the farm. Barnett is in charge of the harvest and what gets included in the CSA shares, as well as some aspects of crop production such as irrigation. DiLorenzo does the bookkeeping, office work, and creates daily and weekly plans to make sure production is on track. Harro oversees the greenhouse production and seeding, and Man takes care of the chickens, maintains the equipment and oversees the apprentices.
The four worker-owners, who all live in Hadley, receive equal monthly stipends as pay and if there are any profits at the end of the year, they will get dividends. They declined to say how much their stipends are.
Over the winter and spring, they produced vegetables for 170 CSA shares, plus eggs for people who want them. The cold spring has delayed planting about two weeks, Man said, but they are now plowing the 15 acres that they farm around Hadley and starting plants in their greenhouses in preparation for their summer CSA. They offer CSAs in Hadley, Amherst, Northampton and Boston, but do not have any plans to sell at farmers markets. They aim to sell between 300 and 400 CSA shares for the summer season.
“We go well beyond what’s required to be certified organic,” DiLorenzo said. They try to avoid spraying at all, he said, even organic sprays.
The farm usually has three paid apprentices, Man said, and they make up a big part of the farm’s work force and identity. While they imagine future apprentices could become member-owners as well, Man said the current scale of the farm cannot support more owners now.
“We would have to have more land and sell more shares,” he said. “But we would be happy to have more owners.”
SPRINGFIELD — Dairy farms and other agricultural operations across the state warned Friday they could be put out of business by proposed regulations governing how they apply manure to their lands.
“If you impose these regulations, there will be no dairy farms left in the state of Massachusetts,” Tedd White, a West Hawley dairy farmer with 114 Holsteins, told officials at the third and final Department of Agricultural Resources hearing on proposed “plant nutrient application regulations” for manure, fertilizer, compost and other materials on 10 acres or more of agricultural and non-agricultural land.
“We keep our farms going because it’s in our blood, it’s our heritage. We’re trying to hang on. Dairy farmers aren’t billion-dollar corporations. They can’t afford secretaries to handle paperwork.”
That paperwork, White and other farmers said, includes detailed records of tests of soil and manure as well as a “nutrient management plan” to be developed and updated every three years in accordance with “best practices” developed by the University of Massachusetts Extension Service.
White, who said he was “flabbergasted” by the proposal, said he already has a management plan and the regulations would be “extremely onerous.” He said that narrowly restricting manure-spreading on his seven-plus generation farm to meet guidelines set by people in Boston who have never farmed “will run us out of business,” along with the state’s 149 other dairy farms.
Expressing “anger, sadness and disgust,” Gary Gemme, of Harvest Farm in Whately, said, “I can’t believe that my state would throw its farmers under the bus for some leniency from the EPA when those farmers are as tuned to pollution issues as any in the country.”
Gemme said that farmers understand how manure and other soil nutrients have to be applied to react with flexibility in changing weather conditions, specific varieties of vegetables and fields that are “swapped” from one crop to another or even between different farmers, “responding quickly and wisely to opportunities that do pop up.”
He added, “This whole process seems like an absurd joke to me,” especially in a state that uses what he calculated as 180 times more salt on its “acres” of roads than the farmers apply in nutrients.
Deerfield dairy farmer Peter Melnik criticized the ambiguity and impracticality of the proposal, especially since it ignores the kinds of decisions farmers routinely have to make when faced with conditions such as this past winter’s ice and cold temperatures.
“I won’t know until a week or so whether that (180 acres of) alfalfa made it through the winter,” he said. “If that alfalfa died, I may have to take that land and put that into a crop that requires manure. Am I going to have to defend myself when a neighbor says, ‘Why are you spreading on this field’ or someone looks at my manure management plan that says I shouldn’t be spreading there this year? … Making those quick decisions sometimes has to happen within weeks.”
The agriculture department — which developed the regulations in accordance with 2012 state legislation so that communities can cut nitrogen and phosphorous pollution to waterways to maximize federal Environmental Protection Agency credits — was supposed to have a comment period that ended Friday. But hearing officer Lee Corte-Real announced that the comment deadline has been extended for 60 days, following hearings already held in Boston and Lakeville.
While some called for that period to be extended to 90 days to allow time for the department to consult with UMass Extension, the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service and especially farmers themselves, Ashfield crop adviser Tom Carter told the hearing that 90 days is not long enough. He pointed out that the comment period coincides with farmers’ busy growing season. He urged that discussions on the details of the regulations should not even begin until Oct. 1.
“Fertilizer recommendations without yield goals are worthless,” said Carter, who also questioned how UMass Extension or the UMass soil test lab, already hard-pressed financially, would be able to keep up with the increased burden on farmers that these regulations would impose.
Carter called the proposal “totally unrealistic and a tremendous burden … on small and large growers alike. It will make well-meaning businesspeople into criminals.”
Katie Campbell-Nelson, a UMass Extension agent from Greenfield, described how her own research showed that manure management under the proposed regulations would result in more pollutants to water sources, not less.
She said soil sampling methods differ from crop to crop and with other factors, and described how the proposed regulations differ from UMass educational materials. There are also discrepancies with UMass Extension’s recommendations for late-season manure application, she added.
Campbell-Nelson called for the regulations to allow more flexibility in scientific advances, differences in nutrient sources, weather, crop type and other variants.
“Many variables impact nutrient management decisions, and they need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” said Campbell-Nelson.
Rather than increased regulations with stiff penalties, farmers and others urged the department to work on an education plan using the recommendations of UMass Extension.
In its testimony to the state, the 6,000-member Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation criticized the lack of coordination with UMass Extension on developing regulations, as the 2012 legislation prescribed.
“Certainly these regulations are not consistent with UMass published information, educational materials and outreach programs.
The requirements of this draft go well beyond UMass information and in some instances outright conflict with UMass guidelines,” the federation’s written testimony states. “The failure of the Department to work with UMass and ensure consistency with established efforts is the major, and root flaw of these regulations.”