Welcome to the 4th issue of the 2012 Michigan Organic Connections provided to you by Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance.
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A Letter From The Chair

Dear Friend,
Most of the recipients of this MOFFA newsletter in all likelihood are aware of our November 10th 2012, 20th anniversary event to be held in Flint, at the Sarvis Center.  And if this Harvest Celebration was not on your calendar prior, now it can be! We can speak of details momentarily – first I would personally like to request that if at all possible you set aside this day to join fellow organic advocates and environmental stewards of this great water wonderland to converse, collaborate and celebrate. We need your voice, and insight and smiling face.

The MOFFA Harvest Event –Bridging the Gap- Michigan Organic Celebration, Conversation, Collaboration, is a day that should be accessible to everyone. So the MOFFA Board of Directors reached a unanimous agreement that we would keep the registration cost to the barest minimum. - $25 will be the cost per individual for the entire event. This was in all likelihood not the most financially astute decision but we hope the generous support through sponsorship and participant/ volunteer donated time will assist in defraying some of the expense so that we will reach a zero balance.
Quite honestly this will be a defining moment for Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance. We seek a path forward.  Precipitated by an acknowledgement that a statewide organic organization, which in its rich history has done exemplary work, still has an important role in your life as well as within the community food system network with which you participate.  No one seeks a pat on the back, but rather more hands on the wheel and filled seats around the table. MOFFA is not sustainable in the present form for one very simple reason – as a virtually all volunteer organization we cannot accomplish what we need to with limited number of individuals involved and the time they generously give.
So hence our Michigan Organic Conference has metamorphosed this year! Our partnership with urban and beginning farmers is instilling a needed boost of youthful vigor. We will have per usual a great organic feast and fine music and the annual Taste of Michigan Social Hour but most importantly we will have a conversation.
Many of us have known one another for years, and our paths have crossed in a variety of ways, but never often enough. And think of the countless new relationships just waiting to manifest; farmers, consumers, business wo/men, educators –all of us students and all of us teachers - brought together on this Saturday in November.   In the present world we inhabit in 2012 with tasks hurtling at us at the speed of light and never enough time to accomplish half of what we would desire there is always ready reason to decline an invitation. Please accept this one!
Come to your party, lend your words of concern, challenge and change to the chorus in the room, and most importantly of all stand together with other organic advocates who believe in a just, wholesome, and ecologically sound agricultural food system.

If this is the day of fulfillment for MOFFA you will want to be there, or if this is a watershed moment in Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance’s saga –well you certainly cannot miss that one either!!        
See you in November! 
John H.

Volume 2, Issue 5

October 2012

In order to make the November 10th anniversary event a success, MOFFA is in need of volunteers to help with the various tasks throughout the day.  This includes registration, set up, clean up, and overall just help making sure the day runs smoothly.  For those willing to volunteer, MOFFA will offer a discount on registration.

MOFFA is also in need of sponsorship to help cover costs of food, facilities, and assistance with registration for those in need.  It is really important to MOFFA to make this event as widely accessible as possible, therefore we plan on granting as many scholarships as sponsorship allows.  Please consider being a sponsor for the upcoming event.  We have a wide range of sponsorship levels ranging from $250- 2,500. 
If you would like to assist MOFFA by either becoming a sponsor or volunteer for the November 10th anniversary event, please contact Carolyn Lowry at calowry721@gmail.com.

MOFFA's Celebration will REALLY be a Taste of Michigan

The wonderful food that you will enjoy at the MOFFA's 20th Anniversary Celebration will come from many of our hard working organic farmers. Holly Lubowicki from Flint and Vicki Morrone with MOFFA board are creating a menu that should satisfy every finicky palette, whether vegetarian, omnivore or vegan!  The dinner buffet will have options in all food categories that fits the bill for everyone.  Holly has been hard at work contacting growers for the multitude of ingredients needed to create a bountiful spread. It will be a wonderful harvest feast, one that you will not want to miss. If you are an organic farmer who now sells to markets and would like to join the list of contributing farmers, please email Vicki at sorrone@msu.edu. You can register for the event by going to our website at www.moffa.org. The cost includes goodies at morning registration, dinner (lunch is on your own) followed by dessert and light finger food at the Taste of Michigan Party in the evening. Come and join us for the festivities and celebrate MOFFA and the gifts our farmers produce!

Autumnal Gatherings

In addition to our Event on the 10th of Nov. there are other great gatherings this autumn, four of which MOFFA has and will have the great pleasure in sponsoring and partaking in.
In September the 10th annual Southwest Michigan Harvest Fest was held at Tillers International Farm in Scotts Mi. a collaboration of Tillers and Fair Food Matters in Kalamazoo. MOFFA was proud to sponsor and participate in this grand event. In addition The Healthy Traditions Network hosted a Growing Connections Conference and Organic Harvest Festival in Oakland County partially sponsored by MOFFA. We had a very visible exhibit and had wonderful discussions - answered questions as well as directing folks to other resources.
Upcoming in both Traverse City and Detroit on the weekend of October 19-21 will be the annual Bioneers Conferences. Not to be missed! Incredible events with Information available at www.glbconference.org and www.glbd.org . MOFFA is proud to be sponsoring and participating at both venues.  In Traverse City Vicki Morrone, board member, will be presenting as session on “Organic Gardening for Any Scale”.  The first week of December on the 4th thru the 6th is the annual Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo –GLEXPO held in Grand Rapids at the De Vos Place Convention Center – www.glexpo.com. Incredible strides have been made these last few years by many dedicated organic advocates to host and present an in-depth day dedicated to organic agriculture. Please check the schedule on the web-site  as the amount of information about the organic day is too great to list here - and please visit us at our exhibitor booth on the trade show floor! 

Water Conservation from Half Way Around the World

By Vicki Morrone (sorrone@msu.edu) www.michiganorganic.msu.edu
Center for Regional Food Systems at MSU, Sect of MOFFA Board

Here I am in India, partly working and partly “holidaying” but with me holidaying means finding gardens, talking to farmers and learning what they are doing. I was visiting an international agricultural center, ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, http://www.icrisat.org/) where I had the privilege to see how water is being captured for irrigation of multiple crops including vegetables.  The water accumulates during rains in large unlined pits and ponds, which drain into the soil over time, so as to replenish the water table.  Heavy monsoon rains fall here, which could overfill pits and cause run off, leading to erosion. So overflow water is directed into the “next” pit, down slope, where silt is allowed to settle out, and then directed into a pipe where it flows into a large, lined pit (about 50 feet deep by 20 feet wide).  This water is used for irrigation, either flood irrigation or drip, depending on the crop being grown. For all types of water management the emphasis is on low-cost, appropriate technology.

This intensive water management allows up to 3 crops to be grown on land that once only supported a single crop per year.  Unfortunately, most of the inputs for this intensive production of crops are not organic-based. There is vermicompost being produced, and leguminous tree biomass (Gliricida) added to the soil, but not enough to produce 3 crops in a season. 

A village-based non-profit group working along with ICRISAT are training disadvantaged farmers, such as widows and landless, on vermicomposting. The compost produced is sold to those farmers with land. I asked how the farmers were coping with any new pests that arrive, since it is the tropics. I was told they have an IPM specialist working with them, but that would be almost like waking up one morning and the diverse vegetable production in Michigan happened over night. How do you cope with such as wide range of challenges?  IPM will happen over time we hope but in the mean time the farmers are seeing conservation of water as a new way to survive and increase their sustainability.  In times of global warming and more variable seasons we may want to learn from our fellow farmers on the other side of the globe and start capturing our own rain water to use during drought periods: saving water is a smart idea.

MOFFA Policy Board Updates

            As we are preparing to come together to discuss the future direction of MOFFA at the upcoming event in Flint on November 10, we need to consider some of the various possibilities for MOFFA’s policy work.  In the past few years, MOFFA has worked on several different projects. The Michigan Organic Cost Share program’s continuance is a result of the hard work and persistent efforts of MOFFA board members, as well as a dedication by the Michigan Department of Agriculture to aid Michigan’s organic farmers.  MOFFA has led an effort to try and collaborate and connect with other sustainable agriculture organizations to do policy work at the state level.  This effort has paid off in terms of the connections and relationships we have made. There is continuing work along these lines, with hopes to do more.  MOFFA has worked on a volunteer basis with the legislature and continues to stay abreast of what is happening in Michigan food and agriculture law.
             As we look forward, we should consider the various possibilities for policy work, as well as funding options for each opportunity. A certain amount of work can be done on a volunteer basis, but without funding (or staff who’s wage is covered by another organization) only so much can be done. Some types of efforts require less ‘staff’ time, and other types of work by their nature generally require paid staff.  I bring this up not to limit our possibilities based on funding; however, for everything that we want MOFFA to engage in, we have to consider how it will be carried out.  Certainly in many situations volunteer efforts can take the place of what are normally paid staff duties- but we need to have a realistic plan of action in order to carry them out well on a volunteer basis. We also need more people who are interested in policy work to volunteer! There are many goals we can achieve if we have interested members engaged.
            Right now is a challenging time for sustainable agriculture organizations generally. Grants from foundations and government are becoming increasingly competitive.  While MOFFA is certainly in a position to leverage such funds to do a significant amount of legitimate and important non-profit work, we need to keep in mind that grant funding is somewhat unlikely in these times even for a well written grant.  We also need to consider that the initial cost of writing for grant funding can be high- writing for grants is normally more than a volunteer can reasonably be asked to do, and we currently do not have full time staff.  So even if there is a strong idea for a grant, we will still need to answer the question of who will write it.  It may be possible to work with existing staff from organizations that we collaborate with, however their staffs are likely stretched at this time as well.
            It would be great to see MOFFA to continue with policy work at both the state and national levels. We can work to promote both organic specific policy as well as sustainable agriculture policies more generally, such as beginning farmer policies. It would also be great to see MOFFA help to create a venue for the various Michigan sustainable agriculture organizations to connect and work collaboratively. MOFFA is in an opportune position to set up a grassroots policy advocacy network, one that will not likely be established otherwise. So: which of these things should MOFFA do, and how do we make it work?  See you November 10th in Flint,
Chris Bardenhagen, MOFFA Policy Chair

MOFFA's 20th Anniversary Celebration Schedule

Register Today for MOFFA's 20th Anniversary Celebration

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MOFFA is looking for suggestions for future newsletter topics.  What subjects are you searching for more information on?  What topics have we been missing in our discussions?  Would you like to contribute to our newsletters... we would love to hear from you.  Please let us know!  Email us at:  moffaorganic@gmail.com

Prepare to Access the Organic EQIP Initiative in 2013

NRCS Program Provides Help for Implementing Conservation Practices

The new fiscal year will bring another opportunity for certified and transitioning organic farmers and ranchers to take advantage of the special organic initiative under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).  

Several state National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices -- California, Maine, and Delaware -- have already set the deadline for final application to the program for 2013 funding; each state office can set their final application dates from several alternatives. Mid October is the earliest possible deadline a state may set, so contact your local or state NRCS office soon to find out what the deadline is.

It is important to remember that you can sign-up for this initiative at any time, but if you are not signed up by the deadline, you will have to wait until next fiscal year.  This link can help you find application information for your state.  NRCS offices

Though the list is not yet available, at least 64 conservation practices and activities are expected to be offered support through this initiative.  State Conservationists may also be able to request a waiver from offering certain practices that may not be applicable for their state in FY 2013, so again check with your local or state NRCS office.  

EQIP offers a significant opportunity for organic and transitioning organic growers to receive financial assistance in implementing conservation practices consistent with organic production practices.

Last year NRCS had been authorized to disburse up to $50 million to producers who submitted successful proposals. Though details may change, a basic explanation of the program can be reviewed on the ATTRA National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website at EQIP Organic Initiative 2012.

Finally, if you have need of further information please call our ATTRA hotline number at 1-800-346-9140 (English) and 1-800-411-3222 (Spanish).
Copyright © 2012 Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance, All rights reserved.
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