Obama Admin to Advance Soil Sustainability

obama-soilOn Monday Dec 5 the Obama Administration Announced New Steps to Advance Soil Sustainability-

the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with Federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders, is announcing new steps to work towards the long-term health and sustainable use of one of America’s most important natural resources: its soil. OSTP is also releasing today a Federal framework for soil science, developed in collaboration with more than a dozen Federal agencies, with input from approximately 80 stakeholders from academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and the agricultural community.

Soil is essential to human life. Not only is it vital for providing most of the world’s food, but it also plays a critical role in ensuring water quality and availability; supports a vast array of non-food products and benefits, including mitigation of climate change; and sustains the biodiversity needed for ecological resilience. These roles make soil essential to modern life. Thus, it is imperative that everyone—city dwellers, farmers and ranchers, land owners, and rural citizens alike—take responsibility for caring for and investing in our soils. Given their importance, soil must be protected from degradation, as the alternative is the loss of an array of important ecosystem services.

The new actions being announced today aim to advance scientific understanding of soils so that land managers and farmers are better able to care for them and maintain their ability to support food security, climate mitigation, ecosystem services, and public health. These actions focus on three key areas:

  1. Promoting interdisciplinary research and education, to answer key questions on rates of soil genesis and erosion, the role of soils in bioenergy production, the development of advanced soil sensors, and research to better understand non-agricultural soils.
  2. Advancing computational tools and modeling, to improve analytical capacity and develop a robust predictive framework in studying soil properties, including pursuing a more sophisticated understanding of soil-carbon fluxes and the potential for soil-carbon sequestration.
  3. Expanding sustainable agricultural practices, to ensure farmers and ranchers have the information and tools they need to protect and enhance agricultural soils and ensure global soils can continue to provide food security and climate benefits for future generations.

For more info on initiatives click here https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/05/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-new-steps-advance-soil

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Keeping Organic Soil-Centric or Can it Get Fishy?

The first organic standard was developed by the Soil Association so it is not surprising that  was founded on the premise that “organic systems are soil based”.  Developments in new technologies, demographics, and consumer interest in locally grown food has driven interest in urban production systems including vertical farms that produce food using hydroponics (these rely on soil-less media or nutrient solutions). Even though the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommends against inclusion of hydroponic systems within the list of organic production systems allowed in the U.S., USDA’s NOP has certified numerous hydroponic operations.  Many of the suppliers are not domestic and the produce would not be allowed to be certified as organic in the countries where it is grown (Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Holland, England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and most other European countries prohibit hydroponic production to be certified or labeled as organic). Not surprisingly members of the organic community are pushing back against vertical farms that have sought and received USDA-backed organic certification.   http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/11/12/organic-farmers-fight-usda-defend-their-turf/hatKOH0ClfmbqyMMwemHBJ/story.html

https://attra.ncat.org/calendar/question.php/can-plants-grown-in-hydroponic-systems-be-certified-organic

Not everyone is opposed to the idea.  Most efforts to separate what might or might not be acceptable focus on the biology of the growing media- advocates are arguing in favor of systems that include enough organic matter and attendant microbial life to support plant growth.  Advocates for organic soil-less production system concentrate on aquaponics that integrate fish culture with plant production systems.  https://aquaponicsassociation.org/the-aquaponics-association/2016/8/31/sustainable-organics-why-aquaponics-and-hydroponics-make-sense

Chicago is home to the largest organically-certified aquaponic vertical farm so this will be a case to watch as the organic standard evolves along with other sustainability certification efforts.. http://www.ecowatch.com/inside-the-nations-largest-organic-vertical-farm-1882108269.html

 

 

 

 

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Local Grains Field Day at Janie’s Farm Sept 10

If you are interested in local grains or tasty beer, bread or other foods made from them you will want to attend the Illinois Organic Growers Association field day that will take place at Janie’s Farm on Sept 10. You can learn about exciting on farm selection trials that Harold and Ross Wilkins are carrying out with the aid of Allison Krill and Fred Kolb and learn from Bill Davison,  U of I extension, and Frank Kutka, founder and co-coordinator of the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Farm Breeding Club, about participatory breeding.  The lunch, featuring locally sourced ingredients, will be prepared by Hendrick House.  If we are lucky there will be a bread demo featuring locally grown wheat!Local Grain DS 2

To register look here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/illinois-local-grains-and-local-markets-tickets-26641236656

Photo credit: Ben Halpern

If you are really into this you will also want to attend the  ‘Illinois Local Grains and Local Markets’ workshop on the U of I campus that is taking (8.00-12.00) place Sept 9 in the ACES library.  Presentation by Frank Kutka and Julie Dawson will showcase participatory breeding efforts taking place in other regions to get us thinking about what might be. This event is for researchers and anyone else including breeders in the region, bakers and brewers who want to source locally produced grains, and farmers interested in conducting trials, that is interested in going with the grain.

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Illinois Organic Growers Fest at Gray Farms Was GREAT

Am truly sorry for you if you missed the third IOGA fest that took place last Saturday at Gray Farms in Watseka IL.  It was an absolutely perfect summer evening on a beautiful farm.

gray headerIn addition to Marty and Crystal’s actual parents, several of their extended-farm family members (farm mentors) and childhood friends (their musical family) were in attendance along with other fabulous guests.  These guests included new friends who are beginning farmers that have, like the Grays, benefited from Farm Beginnings programs! (there are several excellent programs in the state, if you want in on the action google ‘arm beginnings Illinois’ to find a program near you!).   We also got to learn about the Kankakee and Watseka farmers markets from organizers and vendors serving those venues.  Moving the IOGA festival around the state has been a great way to connect with different pockets of our Illinois organic community.  The farm tour was wonderful – you know the crops looked great and the farm was immaculate.  A highlight for me was Marty’s enthusiasm for the new lives the old buildings are experiencing as the farm enterprise grows.  After a wonderful meal we were treated to music provided by the Gray family, Crystal, Aya and Marty, (Aya brought down the hose)

and the flood of unbelievably talented friends (Steve Swigart, Stacy Beam, Mike Speiser, Ross Williamson and Darren Grigsby)

Thanks so much to U of I’s Agroecology and Sustainable Ag program and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (IOGA coordinator Lindsay Miller!) for making this Illinois Organic Growers Association festival possible.  If you did miss it, again I am sorry for you, you might plan on participating in the IOGA crop cycle tour Sept 10!

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Illinois Organic Growers Association Summer Activities

You’ll want to put these Illinois Organic Growers Association activities on your schedule.

IOGA FEST 16First up is the IOGA fest, which will take place at the Gray Farms in Watseka IL on Aug 13.   Come and network, enjoy dinner and dancing with Illiniois’ organic farming community.  Click here to register.

IOGA is also hosting a workshop, Sept 9 and field day at Janie’s Farm on Sept 10 for farmers, breeders and businesses that want to grow our local grain economy.  Click here to learn more.

Also on Sept 10, IOGA will again host the very popular Crop Cycle tour for consumers interested in riding to local farms in the Champaign-Urbana area!  For information about the route and to get involved click here!

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Do We Have a Global Eating Disorder?

gedRead the recent review by Grace Gershuny) about Gunnar Rundgren’s book ‘Global Eating Disorder’ that discusses how we move toward diverse, locally appropriate systems that create equity and the health of people and the environment. http://www.agdevjournal.com/current-issue/652-global-eating-disorder-review.html?catid=228%3Areviews. 

She describes how Rundgren takes the reader through “a metaphorical menu that encompasses the ecological and economic dimensions of each course, and serves up the associated historical, political, and cultural considerations with relish.”

This review attracted my interest because a team of faculty designing a class called “Introduction to Sustainable Food Systems” to introduce students to College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois had discussed using meals as a way to organize the class.  It would be very interesting for students taking ACES 102 to read this book and see if the course leads them to agree with Gershuny who, after reading the book, concludes that “the way most food in today’s globalized and industrial food system is produced, manufactured, transported, and marketed is creating poor health among the humans who consume it as well as the planetary ecosystems that sustain us all.”

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AMP postdocsOARDC Agroecosystems Science and Education Postdoctoral Research Associates
The Agroecosystems Management Program of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center offers two opportunities for highly qualified postdoctoral scholars. In general the Program addresses the environmental, economic and social challenges and opportunities facing farmers and rural communities (amp.osu.edu). Associates will be expected to maintain a strong publication record, seek extramural funding, contribute to educational programs, and work effectively in interdisciplinary teams that include stakeholder partners.

Agroecosystems Management Program Postdoctoral Research Associate in
Agroecosystems Science
This position requires an individual who will initiate, develop, and manage grant funded
projects including data collection and management, analysis, preparation of manuscripts for publication and grant proposals for continued funding. Specific responsibilities will include, but would not be limited to: Assist with overall project management in the Agroecosystems Management Program and in particular management of USDA grants and ongoing programs; Assist with development of sustainable agriculture curriculum; Manage fieldwork and assist with interdisciplinary collaboration on a USDA grant exploring diversification of small and medium sized farms; Write manuscripts for peer reviewed journals; Assist with development of grant proposals for new projects; Assist with ongoing programs such as the Stinner Summit and Warner Grants; assist with developing curriculum and best practices for instruction in sustainable agriculture educational programs. This is a term position for 3 years, renewable, located in Wooster, Ohio. A Ph. D. is required in a field related to agroecosystem science. Desirable training, skills and experience includes ecological research particularly focused on agriculture and the environment, broad training in the biophysical as well as socioeconomic disciplines, excellent verbal and written communication skills, demonstrated publishing and proposal development interest and potential, demonstrated interest and ability to work in interdisciplinary teams, demonstrated interest and ability in both classroom and outreach education.

Agroecosystems Management Program Postdoctoral Research Associate in Sustainable Agriculture Education
This position requires an individual who will manage a USDA-funded project to develop a
statewide network of sustainable agriculture education programs including certificate, associate and baccalaureate degrees at 5 partner institutions. The postdoctoral associate will be expected to: assist with overall project management; develop sustainable agriculture curriculum; coordinate curriculum alignment among partner institutions; teach in sustainable agriculture courses; research sustainable agriculture education theory and practice; assist in project evaluation. Additional tasks to ensure success and ongoing support include preparation of manuscripts for publication and grant proposals for continued funding. Research could include, but would not be limited to: the role of experiential learning in sustainable agriculture education, theory of sustainable agriculture education, and the role of degree programs in career success for students of sustainable agriculture. This is a term position for 3 years. The project involves both the Columbus and Wooster campuses of Ohio State, and travel to partner institutions in Ohio is expected. A Ph. D. is required in a field related to agroecosystem science. The position also requires teaching experience, preferably at multiple levels in both secondary schools and at the undergraduate level. Desirable training, skills and experience include research expertise focused on agriculture and the environment, broad training in the biophysical as well as socioeconomic disciplines, excellent verbal and written communication skills, demonstrated publishing andproposal development interest and potential, demonstrated interest and ability to  work in interdisciplinary and inter-institutional teams, demonstrated interest and ability in both classroom and outreach education.
These positions offer competitive salaries and a full package of benefits including health
insurance.

Applicants should submit a cover letter, c.v., and the names, addresses, phone and email
addresses for 3 references by email to: hoy.1@osu.edu

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A few summer reading suggestions

ASAP’s summer reading list:

graceGrace Gershuny’s, Organic Revolutionary: A Memoir of the Movement for Real Food, Planetary Healing, and Human Liberation, reviews origins of the U.S. organic standard through the author’s eyes beginning with the 1970s back-to-the-land movement, appreciation of the soul of the soil and the organic farming movement in northern New England.   Grace was one of the lead authors of the U.S. National Organic Standard and an active contributor to the newly approved Sustainable Agriculture Standard (Leo 4000).  This is extremely valuable reading for anyone interested in how social movements, standards and human tenacity can help forge sustainable food systems that live up to our highest aspirational goals.  Books ($16.50) can be ordered online from Lulu.com. http://www.lulu.com/shop/grace-gershuny/organic-revolutionary/paperback/product-22549124.html

C frmingEric Tonesmeier’s newest book is a guide for individuals, communities and organizations interested in taping agriculture’s capacity to mitigate climate change.  The Carbon Farming Solution shares a suite of agricultural practices and crops that sequester carbon in the soil and biomass through the use of perennial crops, new approaches to animal grazing, and agroforestry leveraged through creative financial mechanisms. It provides in-depth analysis of the available research and identifies needs by covering: Perennial staple and industrial crops including those that can provide us with starches, sugar, oils, fiber, energy, and more; Improved grazing and livestock practices; Measurements of a project’s impact on carbon reduction and sequestration; Details on how to scale up existing carbon farming enterprises; Effective financing models for communities and the private sector
An overview of international policy barriers to expanding carbon farming
– Available at: http://www.chelseagreen.com/the-carbon-farming-solution#sthash.sa6qwqQk.dpuf; His writings, videos and more can be viewed at www.perennialsolutions.org

milkAnd, on the lighter side- The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey is by Alan Guebert, who writes the nationally syndicated column “The Farm and Food File”, is a master storyteller, who recounts farm life on Indian Farm in Southern Illinois during the 1960s and `70s. This is available from the University of Illinois Press at http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/93kft5fg9780252080944.html

Enjoy your summer!

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NRCS Agriculture Resource Coordinator Livingston IL

Folks, this would be a GREAT JOB, no deadline was listed but if you are interested you should JUMP ON IT!

The Livingston County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) seeks to fill a full-time Agriculture Resource Coordinator position. This position is for 40 hours per week with limited flexibility in scheduled hours. Attendance at monthly board meetings, special events, outdoor activities and other evening meetings is required. Starting salary will be based upon skills and experience.
The basic responsibility of the Agriculture Resource Coordinator position is to promote the protection and conservation of Livingston County’s and the state of Illinois’ soil, water, and related natural resources. This goal is achieved by providing educational and technical assistance to producers and landowners, supporting the work of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and building diverse conservation partnerships to address local conservation needs. The Agriculture Resource Coordinator carries out the strategic priorities of the District’s Long Range Plan and Annual Plan of Work in accordance with the authorities and responsibilities established by the Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts Act.

For more info https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwQeCwBfzfRGS3BrU25xMTJ6d28/view?usp=sharing

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CONSERVATION CROPPING SYSTEMS AGRONOMIST INDIANA

ICCIIndiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI), which is a program of the Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP) is looking for a point person to provide Extension education on conservation cropping systems to a variety of audiences and assist with research demonstrations and data collection from farmer-cooperators.

This individual would participate in at least 44 soil health educational events per year in Indiana. Work with farmers, researchers, and others to collect and analyze data. Establish working relationships with other agricultural enterprises. Write technical fact-sheets, bulletins, or newsletter articles about specific topics in soil health and conservation cropping systems.  The preferred location is the West Lafayette Purdue campus, but alternate location within the State of Indiana is negotiable.

More info, including application instructions are at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxbX9viaiDhxaU5EdnpERFBaOXM

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