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News and Views

Organic Cheese Is Here!

By Ted Zettel

A group of certified organic dairy farmers,including EFAO past-president Lawrence Andres and Public Relations Director Ted Zettel, have succeeded in getting Ontario's first certified organic cheese on the market. Among the cheeses that will be available January 1, 1995 are cheddar, mozzarella and several flavoured brick varieties. The cheese is made at Pine River Cheese Co., located south of Kincardine, and will be distributed nationally under the brand name "Country Meadow". Organic fluid milk and butter are also being investigated. Any dairy farmers interested in the project should contact Lawrence at (519) 368-7417.

Intensive Plowing With Pigs

By Mike Beretta

Intensive grazing (also known as controlled, rotational, or rational grazing) seems to have become more and more common in the past few years. The goal of this form of management is to reduce the costs and increase the efficiency of a grazing enterprise. It is generally associated with sheep, goats or cattle farms. This year I decided to alter the concept slightly and try intensive grazing/plowing with pigs. Maybe not something Voisin (the "father" of intensive grazing) had in mind, but definitely something worth considering.

For the past few years I've always kept some pigs outdoors, generally sharing pasture with the cattle. What rooting they do in such a large area is of little consequence since it is permanent pasture. This year however I weaned a litter off a sow and moved her into a "cell" within a larger paddock. I used two strands of polytape (the visibility of these is essential for the first day or two) at approximately 8 and 16 inches from the ground. It is very important for the pig to get a couple of good shocks right away to give her respect for the fence. With an electric fence, it seems they'll either get out in the first hour or they won't get out at all. Also I found that after her experience in the first cell, all she needed was one strand to keep her in.

I supplied water in a trough and would feed her a little grain twice a day in a pile on the ground. She grazed the grass off in a couple of days and then began rooting. She turned over the sod as well as any plow and within about two to three weeks she was ready to move to fresh ground. I did this by removing the wires on the side adjacent to the new cell. Once pigs respect the wire, an invisible boundary is formed and it's difficult to get them across it, even without the wire. I found this was best accomplished by moving her water trough and feed into the new cell. The transition sometimes took most of the day, but when she got thirsty or hungry enough she would venture across. I would then simply replace the removed wire so they separated her from her previous cell.

I did this for about five cells covering almost two acres. She completely turned the soil over exposing twitch roots and all in about three months. All I had to do was harrow and seed down the paddock she worked for me. This year I seeded cereal rye in it for use as an early grazing paddock next spring.

As in intensive grazing, knowing when to move the animals is essential, although somewhat less so with the pig. If the animal is in the cell too short a time, the twitchgrass and sod would quickly return, and if they are left too long, they tend to pack the freshly turned ground in certain areas, particularly where they stand to await you at feeding time.

It would be difficult to make use of this sustainable form of plowing on a large scale, however for small paddocks, preparing new garden beds or nursery rows, removing brush and even renovating areas in lawns or pastures, intensive plowing may fit into your garden or farm operation.

The Heritage Seed Program

By Heather Apple, Director of the HSP

(We need to make stronger ties with other group committed to some of the same goals as ourselves. We offer this articles as one of many organizations you may be interested in, and could gain a lot from.)

A serious situation is occurring around the world. Farmers and gardeners have stopped growing the older varieties of food crops in favour of modern hybrids. When these varieties are no longer grown they become extinct. This results in a serious loss in the genetic diversity of our food crops. It is important that we maintain this diversity so that plant breeders will have an abundance of material to breed resistance to diseases and insect pests into our present crops. Today we are facing the additional challenge of finding varieties which are tolerant to pollution, acid rain, possible greenhouse effects, and increased ultraviolet radiation due to the thinning ozone layer.

Many of the varieties in danger of disappearing are of special interest to small scale sustainable growers. In contrast to modern hybrids which are bred to grow well with high inputs of chemical fertilizers, these varieties were developed at a time when there were no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Growers can also choose varieties which are especially adapted to their local growing conditions. Many of the old varieties were developed at a time when taste and tenderness were more important than the ability to withstand machine harvesting and long distance shipping. This makes them well suited to growing for local markets and community shared agriculture projects.

The Heritage Seed Program is a project which searches out and preserves heirloom and endangered varieties of vegetables, fruits, grains and herbs. Members grow these varieties, practice the proper seed saving techniques to keep the varieties pure, save seeds, and make these seeds available to other members. In this way, someone somewhere is always growing out these varieties so that they will not become extinct. The Program is a living gene bank.

Members receive our magazine 3 times a year and our annual Seed Listing. Yearly membership is $18. An illustrated booklet How to Save Your Own Vegetable Seeds is available for $7 (postpaid). There is a Resource List ($1) of seed companies and nurseries which sell heirloom, endangered and regionally adapted varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs. For more information write to Heritage Seed Program, RR3, Uxbridge, Ontario, L9P 1R3.

Recent Donations

Once again the directors would like to thankfully acknowledge the kindness of several members who've recently made donations to the EFAO:

Martin and Corrie Pronk

Harriston.

Matthew and Jane Valk

Coldwater

Brewster and Cathleen Kneen

Toronto

James Grey

Orangeville

BOOK REVIEW

COVENANT OF THE WILD: OR WHY ANIMALS CHOSE DOMESTICATION

By Gord Chiddicks, R.R. #1, Bluevale, On. N0G 1G0 519-335-3749

(This is an interesting book offering some thought provoking ideas and insights. Like many other books, you can likely obtain this through inter-library loan at your public library.)

This book is an interesting blend of evolutionary history, archaeological evidence, genetics and the author's own farming experience. The author, Stephen Budiansky, suggests that our vision of nature as the pristine natural world unspoiled by human intervention is at least 10,000 years out of date. In this sense, the book is a not-too-gentle refutation of many animal-rightist ideas.

The author claims that since the last ice age animals and humans have unconsciously, yet purposefully established symbiotic relationships which have made them mutually more fit to survive. It makes sense that some animals would trade off the fear and uncertainty of constant predation, for a safer existence and timely death within human confines. The horse stands out as an example of a species that, already extinct in North America after the Ice Age, would not have survived evolutionary forces had it not formed a working relationship with mankind. The author presents compelling genetic proof that when man selected for the one genetic trait of "tameness", a whole bag of other genetic characteristics unintentionally came with it. In short, juvenile behavior is submissive behavior. It can be shown that most domestic animals are adolescent versions of their wild counterparts - a case of arrested development. Immature wild pups exhibit the same behavioral and physical traits we have come to expect in mature domestic dogs, for example.

One message of this book is that humankind has taken too much credit for domestication, of both plants and animals, in the face of huge environmental and evolutionary forces entirely out of their control. Archaeological evidences suggests that agriculture was very reluctantly adopted by humans because it invariably meant a decline in health over the diverse diet of the hunter-gatherer. However, the author argues that once the agricultural ball started rolling, it inevitably caused environmental changes that are, for the most part, irreversible. He sites environmental disasters as old as human history, and suggests that agriculture itself may be the one of the biggest. This is not to suggest that we are not responsible for what we have done to this planet, just that we need to accept that we are a legitimate, albeit small, player in this evolutionary drama. Working within a system of beliefs that legitimizes mankind's history and influences is, in the author's opinion, a far safer route to the future, than denying that we have had, or should have, any influence on the natural world which has opted for a relationship with us.

Update On Organic Dairy Farming Research

By Dr. Peter Stonehouse, Univ. of Guelph

(In 1993 a second round of research comparing organic dairy farmers to conventional ones was done at the University of Guelph. The researchers hope the evolving picture of organic dairy farms will be helpful to organic farmers, those considering transition, government policy makers, researchers and extension personnel. Below are excepts of the report Dr. Stonehouse sent to the EFAO.)

Our first-round study of eight farmers in 1993 resulted in some very interesting findings. First, organic dairy farmers use sophisticated mechanical technology (e.g. pipeline or parlour milkers, mechanized manure handling) in the dairy and crop enterprises, while using none of the sophisticated chemical technology (e.g. synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, feed additives, etc.) relied on by their conventional counterparts. Second, organic dairy farmers carefully rotate their crops around all fields, include hay and pasture in the rotation, do their best to be fully self-sufficient in providing feeds for the dairy herd and its replacements, rely on small grains rather than corn as an energy supplement, and use very little of their land for growing crops for export off the farm. Third, organic farmers are successful: milk yields/cow are good at 5882 L, calving intervals are generally low at 12.5 months, net farm income average is impressive at nearly $60,000 (before returns to land and equity capital), and average owner's equity exceeds $500,000.

And how did the organic farmers perform compared with their conventional dairy farm counterparts in Ontario? Extremely well, is the short answer. Whilst conventional farmers bought and sold more prepared dairy feeds and crops, the organic dairy farmers focussed on being nutrient self-sufficient for both crops and animals. This strategy paid off for the organic farmers, who turned in lower production costs, comparable crop and milk yields, and higher net farm incomes than the conventional farmers.

While we are deeply grateful to those who have already participated, the one thing that would improve our study would be a larger sample size. The credibility of our results would be strengthened if we had more organic dairy farmers providing us with their data. Would you therefore participate with us in the second year of the study, aimed at helping those of you in the organic industry help yourselves? Your help to us would be greatly appreciated, and of course all your business data would be treated in strictest confidence.

I strongly urge you to think about coming on board - and to contact me, Dr. Peter Stonehouse, at: University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Tel#(519) 824-4120 ext. 2204 or to contact Dr. Ann Clark at: Department of Crop Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Tel#(519) 824-4120 ext. 2508.

High School Co-operative Program

By Cathy McGregor-Smith,

RR #6, St. Thomas, N5P 3T1, 519-631-0279

(Consider this option as a way of meeting your labour needs. It has the added benefits of strengthening our ties with the education system, letting them hear our message, and perhaps you'll come up with some excellent help for the cost of your time and training.)

Our farm business, McSmith's Farm Produce seemed to work into the high school co-op student program very well. We were approached by the local high school coordinator to see if we would like to train a student interested in Horticulture and Farming. Our duties were to evaluate the student's progress, attendance, attitude and interest.

The student worked for 3 hours a day from February until June. The first task on our farm involved greenhouse work (seeding and transplanting of vegetables, flowers and herbs into plug trays and 6pks). Soon we began working the ground outside, adding compost, and making seed beds. Over the course of the student's stay, they learnt many aspects of operating an organic farm and marketing organic produce.

It is a good program and well worth looking into as a source of help on your farm. Just remember that it's hard to find any individual who will work as hard as the Farm Family.

Help!

Can anyone give me information on growing strawberries organically? We have a terrible problem with the tarnish bug that stunts the fruit.

Also, has anyone used plastic "moats" around the perimeter of their potato patch to trap Colorado Potato Bugs? How did you do it and what were the results?

Perhaps a reply in the EFAO newsletter might help other farmers as well.

Thanks,

Joan Smith,

RR#2 Warsaw, Ont

K0L 3A0

Ideas For Joan: Re Tarnished Plant Bugs on Strawberries

One of our members, Ken Laing, has grown strawberries for several years. He thought that varietal selection is a good starting point in dealing with this problem. The work of a researcher in Maine found that Honeoye was consistently one of the varieties most resistant to tarnished plant bugs. Sparkle also had a good track record, and Veestar (a daughter of Sparkle) was also relatively resistant. Guardian and Redchief showed moderate resistance. Micmac (always at the bottom) and Kent were very susceptible. It's interesting to note both have Tioga in their breeding pedigree. Kent is such a prolific bearer however, there is usually a decent yield anyway. Governor Simcoe has fair susceptibility.

Neighbouring field crops can also intensify the problem. Alfalfa, for instance, acts as a great alternate host for these bugs, and problems will be worse when strawberries are adjacent to it, particularly if there is some pressure for the insects to move from that field at blossom time for the strawberries, i.e. the alfalfa is being grazed.

There has also been some trials using vacuuming devices to suck up these pests. These haven't proven very successful.

For questions like this it's also worthwhile contacting the Pest Diagnostic Clinic at 519-767-6256. They can send out helpful information, or often guide you to someone who can help.

(Editor: We've searched around for someone to answer the second question, but haven't been successful. Can you help? Sharing information and experience is what the EFAO is all about.)

Copyright 1995 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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