by Allan Reetz
Standing around for three hours on a cold blustery day at Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford, Vermont, proved to be a great way to have my eyes opened.
On Sunday, October 30, I attended the Rally in The Valley at Cedar Circle to hear about a serious threat to organic agriculture. I was one of a few hundred people attending the rally and tractor cavalcade.
Although I won’t try to provide a full recap here, the following information should serve as a primer on a threat to our local organic farms—a threat that has “snuck under the radar” for so many of us. (For a more complete introduction to this issue, follow this link for reason behind the rally: http://www.keepthesoilinorganic.org/about-us )
If you are aware of this issue, you know this fight does not appear to be an easy one. Speakers like Dave Chapman (Long Wind Farm) and a least a couple others weren’t merely sounding an alarm, they expressed grave concern that it will be a tough row-to-hoe to prevent hydroponics from qualifying for the organic label. As many speakers were clear to state; this is NOT a rally against hydroponics, but rather a critical fight to keep organic standards rooted in the soil of which they were founded. Presently, there are many countries which prohibit hydroponics from being labeled as organically grown, yet those same countries export that produce to the United States for sale as such. This is currently enabling massive hydroponic operations to sell produce as organic when nary a root of those crops has ever been in actual soil.
The attached photos do a fairly good job of communicating the size of the crowd that converged on Cedar Circle Farm. What is missing from the images is the strong passion voiced by the crowd and the clear message of all speakers.
The number of activists in the crowd was impressive enough to make even a casual observer know that this group won’t give up easily.
- Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy
- Vermont Congressman Peter Welch
- Eliot Coleman, farmer, author, and leader within the organic movement. Eliot served for two years as Executive Director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and was an advisor to the S. Department of Agriculture during its 1979–80 study, Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming, a document that formed the basis for today’s legislated National Organic Program (2002) in the U.S.
- Dave Chapman, founder, Long Wind Farm, East Thetford, Vermont, and driving force behind efforts on this issue. http://nofavt.org/blog/keeping-soil-certified-organic
- Dave Zuckerman, organic farmer, Full Moon Farm, Hinesburg, Vermont. Vermont legislator, candidate for Vermont Lt. Governor
- Enid Wonnacott, executive director, NOFA-VT
- Jake Guest, co-owner, Killdeer Organic Farm, Norwich, Vermont
- Tom Beddard, founder, Lady Moon Farm Organics. http://www.ladymoonfarms.com/
- Will Allen, co-manager, Cedar Circle Farm Organic Farmstand and Education Center. https://cedarcirclefarm.org/about/farm-crew/profiles/kate-and-will/
- Pete Johnson, Pete’s Greens, Craftsbury, Vermont. http://petesgreens.com/about/pete-johnson
Other event attendees included:
- Pooh Sprague, Edgewater Farm, Plainfield, New Hampshire
- Dave Pierson, Pierson Farm, Bradford, Vermont
- Bob Gray, 4-Corners Farm, South Newbury, Vermont
- Steve Taylor, Taylor Farm, Meriden, New Hampshire, former New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture
- Roger Noonan, president, New England Farmers Union
- Executives from the Board of Yankee Farm Credit
Media coverage: ABC-22 (TV) News, Burlington-Plattsburgh. http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/vermonters-rally-in-the-valley-to-keep-the-soil-in-organic
Given Vermont’s ability to move the needle on agriculture topics such as the GMO issue and current news reports [see Sunday’s NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/30/business/gmo-crops-pesticides.html?_r=0], I would think an event on the threat to organic standards and the devastating impact it would have on local farms, a rally with such a who’s who of speakers would have garnered a bit more local media coverage. If there was more than what was featured online by ABC-22, I’ve not been able to find it. Senator Leahy is recognized at the “father” of the national organic labeling and standards program and an agricultural sector that has blossomed into a $30 billion industry.
I hope everyone will follow the lead of the many speakers and attendees of Sunday’s Rally in The Valley and become informed and involved on this issue.
Allan Reetz is Director of Public Relations for the Co-op Food Stores.
Update: Since this post was published, media reports on the Rally in The Valley have aired or been published by WPTZ-TV and Valley News.
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