On February 11th, the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group hosted Tom Beddard, founder and president of Lady Moon Farms, as the fourth speaker in the Sustainable Agriculture Seminar Series. The man behind Lady Moon Farms is as enthusiastic as they come; and even after 22 years, you can clearly see the joy that farming brings him. His seminar was as much about life as it was organic farming, and that only made his story more compelling.
An active sustainable agriculture research and extension community has been quietly growing in size at Penn State University. This was evident on the afternoon of February 25th when faculty, cooperative extension, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate students came together to meet one other, share ideas, and discuss ways to foster collaboration between three groups working on sustainable cropping systems research and extension projects.
As a leading cause of foodborne illnesses, fresh fruits and vegetables have received national attention, recently highlighted by the Food Safety Modernization Act which was signed into law in early 2011 by President Obama. Through this law, the Food and Drug Administration will establish mandatory minimum standards, called Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), based on known safety risks for the safe production and harvesting of produce. To verify compliance with GAPs, growers are expected to apply for and pass a fee-based independent, third-party audit. The Food Safety Modernization Act is the most recent example of increasing expectations for on-farm food safety practices. Prior to this public regulation, some supermarkets had already been implementing policies that required their produce suppliers to provide evidence of GAP compliance as a condition of purchase.
Organic milk, meat, poultry and eggs represent some of the fastest growing sectors of the organic market. Because agricultural feed ingredients in the diets of certified livestock must be organically produced, continued growth in the retail market has resulted in increasing demand for organic feed grains. Many organic producers in Pennsylvania produce feed grains for their own livestock or dairy operations. There are also off-farm marketing options for organic grain producers, including direct to local organic livestock producers, organic feed manufacturers, co-ops, brokers and merchandisers, with or without an advance contract. Typically, there is a price premium for organic feed grains. In the past, prices for organic feed grains have reached 50 to 150% above conventional prices.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced a second opportunity to apply for its Organic Initiative during fiscal year 2011. To be considered, eligible certified organic growers or those producers who are transitioning to organic production must submit a complete application by Friday, May 20, 2011.
Check out the wide variety of sustainable agriculture events organized by Penn State, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, the Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network, and others.