VABF

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

Waverly Farms


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A Memorable Lunch

Earlier this month, Soil Food Web expert Elaine Ingham presented two full day workshops as part of the Virginia Farm to Table Conference. For the lunch on December 4th, VABF purchased produce, meat and other items from biological producers. We then turned these farm products over to the capable hands of Virginia State University’s Thompson Catering Chefs. We thank the chefs for preparing a delicious meal while caring for our ingredients. We also thank the producers for raising such high quality ingredients!

VSU Thompson Catering Chefs 2014Woodland Farm – Amelia – Beef
Waverly Farms – Burkeville – Greens
Victory Farms – Richmond – Apples, Potatoes, Greens
Tomten Farm – Green Bay- Greens
Slade Family Farm – Surrey County – Sweet Potatoes
Radical Roots – Keezletown – Garlic
Origins Farm – Hanover- Apples, Greens
Mattawoman Creek Farms – Northern Neck – Onions
Hungry Hill – Nelson County – Honey
Heartland Harvest – Mt Solon – Eggs, Flour
Croftburn Farm – Culpeper- Beef
Buffalo Creek Farm – Lexington – Beef
The Byrd Farm – Columbia – Butternut Squash

Organic Valley – Butter and Cream
Buttermilk Bakery – Petersburg – Donuts

We will be serving Virginia farm-food products at our upcoming Virginia Biological Farming Conference too. If you would like your products to be served there, please contact Janet Aardema.


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VABF’s FSMA Comments

The Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF) offered the attached comments on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) supplemental proposed rules on Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Rule) and Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (Preventive Controls Rule).

On November 11, 2013, VABF submitted extensive comments on the first Proposed Rules for Produce and Preventive Controls. We appreciate FDA’s efforts to make the Rules more practical for small and medium scale produce farmers. At the same time, upon review of the supplemental proposed rules, we remain concerned that several provisions in the Re-proposal could impose unwarranted burdens on our farmer members and other family farms across the US, and/or create barriers to the development and expansion of local, sustainable food systems. We address these issues in the attached pages.

Click here to see VABF’s Comments


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Proposed FSMA Rule

From Mark Schonbeck

Dear All,

Proposed FSMA RuleRemember last year’s all-out grassroots campaign, spearheaded by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to submit comments to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on their proposed rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)?  Remember how hard we worked to ensure that the new food safety rules don’t put family farms out of the produce business and don’t slow the growth and evolution of sustainable local food systems?  While thousands of us in the field wrote individual comments from farmer, processor, and consumer viewpoints, the NSAC Food Systems Integrity Committee also stayed in close dialogue with FDA on the issues, and many NSAC member groups, including VABF, submitted comments on behalf of their constituencies.

Well, our work has paid off. FDA heard us and went back to the drawing board and reworked key sections of the Produce Rule (which regulates produce farms), and the Preventive Controls Rules (which regulates food processing businesses). This fall, FDA issued its “second draft” – a re-proposal of these sections of the rules. It is fairly unusual for a federal agency to issue a second proposed rule, and indicates that FDA wants to work with us to ensure that the rules protect food safety and are workable for producers and processors at all scales.

The re-proposal makes a substantial improvement over the first proposed rule. However, much more work needs to be done to ensure that the rules and their implementation do not impose excessive costs on small farms and businesses, and do not create unwarranted barriers to conservation, ecological farming practices, and the growth of local sustainable food systems.

We need farmers, processors, and consumers of organic / sustainable / local food to give their input to FDA between now and December 15!

Below are links to several documents that can help you develop your comments and inform/engage others in this vital campaign:

For more information on FSMA, visit NSAC’s web page on FSMA, http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma, which includes links to:

Thank you – and I apologize for the short time line and my tardiness in getting this out to you all.

Sincerely,
Mark Schonbeck
VABF newsletter editor and policy liaison

Additional Information Regarding FSMA Rules

Specific remaining issues that must be addressed in the final FSMA
rules include:

  1. In the re-proposed rules, FDA definitions of “farm” and farm activities such as harvesting, packing, and holding, still have the potential to limit farmers’ ability to expand local food systems through aggregation, food hubs, farm-to-school programs, etc.  For example, a group or cooperative of farmers who operate a shared packing and holding facility would be reguated as a “facility” under the Preventive Controls Rule, even though the new proposed rules recognizes these as low-risk activities that are considered part of a “farm” when conducted on farm.  This can pose a substantial barrier to innovative farmers developing new models for expanded local food systems that bring more revenue and deliver fresh high quality food to a higher percentage of community residents.  In addition, FDA still defines a “farm” as “in one general physical location,” which could be interpreted to treat farmers who own and operate two non-contiguous properties as operators of “facilities” subject to both Rules.  FDA definitions must be clarified and broadened in order to remove unwarranted barriers to low-risk aggregation, packing,and holding activities that are essential to the growth of local food systems.  For more on this issue, visit the NSAC page on operating a farm/facility.
  2. Annual sales thresholds used to determine whether a farm is exempt from the FSMA rules ($25,000) or can meet a simplified set of requirements (“qualified exemption, $500,000); and to determine the regulatory approach for food facility businesses, are variously based on “all produce,” “all human food,” or a”all food,” which creates confusion as well as barriers to farm diversification.  For example, a farm producing over $500,000 annually in products not covered by FSMA that seeks to diversify into covered produce (e.g., salad greens, strawberries) would have to comply with the full Produce Rule, even if the covered produce sales are within the exemption or qualified exemption thresholds.  The cost of such compliance would likely make the divesification economically infeasible.  We are asking FDA to base exemption thresholds for the Produce  Rule on sales of covered produce, and thresholds for the Preventive Controls Rule on sales of food items covered by this Rule.  For more on this issue, visit the NSAC food covered product page.
  3. The re-proposed rule still fails to clarify that CSAs, CSA drop-off points, multi-farm CSA’s, farmers’ markets, farmstands, and other direct-to-consumer venues are not “facilities” but are “retail food establishments not subject to the Preventive Controls Rule.  We need to push FDA to include this simple clarification, which is mandated in the FSMA legislation itself, in the final rule. For more on this issue, visit the NSAC direct to consumer page.
  4. In a positive development, FDA dropped the 9-month interval between application of uncomposted manure and harvest, and the 45 day interval between compost application and harvest, and are instead planning to research the manure issue in order to develop a more science-based application interval.  Ath this time and throughout FDA’s process of researching and developing proposed regulations for “soil amendments of animal origin”, it is vital that producers provide input to FDA regarding the importance of compost and/or manure in their nutrient management and soil improvement practices, and how they manage and use these materials to protect food safety while providing needed fertility.  For more on this issue, visit the NSAC page on manure and compost.
  5. Regarding the re-proposed rule still fails to recognize that many conservation practices, such as riparian buffers and beneficial habitat plantings can also help protect produce safety in crop production fields.  They do not encourage implementation of these conservation practices, and could still deter farmers from installing conservation plantings.  In the final rule, FDA needs to define “co-management” of conservation and food safety concerns and encourage implementation of win-win conservation plantings and practices.  In addition, FDA needs to clarify that its deferral of the 9-month manure rule also means that a 9-month interval between grazing a field and the next food harvest is not required. For more on these issues, visit the NSAC page on conservation and on animals.
  6. Regarding the use of surface water for irrigation of produce crops, the re-proposed rule offers greater flexibility, but it still requires a costly and burdensome water testing protocol without adequate scientific justification.  One of the positive aspects of the new rule is that it assumes that bacteria in applied water undergo a ten-fold (one log unit) dieoff every two days; thus a water source that somewhat exceeds standards can be used if applied a sufficient number of days before harvest so that die-off brings it within the standard.  We need producers to let FDA know how the current proposed water standards would impact their operation, and how the standard might be modified to reduce testing costs while still adequately protecting food safety.  For more on the water issue, visit the NSAC page on agricultural water.
  7. Although farms with annual sales under $500,000 and food facilities with annual sales under $1 million may qualify for modified (simplified) compliance requirements (also called “qualified exemption”), FDA retains broad authority to revoke the qualified  exemption and subject the farm or facility to the full regulation if they think there is a food safety problem.  While the re-proposed rule has improved the process and includes a route for producers and processors to regain the qualified exemption upon correcting the problem, the rules remain sufficiently vague and inconsistent that they do not protect farmers from unfair and arbitrary revocations of the qualified exemption.  For example, the “material conditions” on which a revocation might be based remain inadequately defined.  We need to push FDA to establish a clear, fair, and consistent process for alerting qualified-exempt producers of a potential problem and how they can correct it, as well as for suspension and reinstatement as appropriate.  For more on exemptions and modifications, visit the NSAC page regarding the Produce Rule and/or the page regarding Preventative Controls for facilities.
  8. The re-proposed Preventive Controls Rule requires facilities to implement “supplier verification programs” for certain foods, which could entail an on-side audit for farms who are already complying with the Produce  Rule.  This provision imposes an additional burden on farmers who want to sell to a food processing facility, and it also conflicts with the statutory language of FSMA. For more on this issue, visit the NSAC page on supplier approval and verification.
  9. Estimated costs of compliance with the Produce rule and Preventive Controls rule remain high enough that FDA anticipates that some small farms and facilities may go out of business, fewer people will start farming, and more farmers will have to seek off-farm income. The added costs of entering produce farming could have a particularly severe impact on beginning farmers  In addition, the re-proposed Preventive Controls Rule includes two new and costly requirements: environment testing (food prep surfaces, etc), and product testing.  FDA must find ways to reduce costs of compliance, and at least make the new environment and product testing “guidance” and not regulation.  For more on these issues, visit the NSAC page on Environmental and Product Testing, or on costs to facilities of on cost to produce farmers.
  10. FDA is requesting comment on how much record keeping should be required of farmers who pack and hold produce from other farms. Farmers should not be required to keep any more detailed records than they normally would in the course of doing business, such as invoices showing produce purchases and sales.  For more on these requirements, visit the NSAC page on record keeping requirements.


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Growing VABF throughout 2015

Recently, VABF member Jacqueline Moyer stepped up to help us create a working member database. She was the right person at the right time and generously shared her skills to answer a major need of ours. Another member, Jennifer Wills is sharing her time and energy to help board member Janet Aardema source ingredients from Virginia farms for our upcoming conference meals. This complex and important coordination allows us to keep alive our conference tradition of serving local food.

Both of these women volunteered to tackle specific tasks and their help is incredibly valuable to our organization. Perhaps you have skills you would like to use to advance the organic farming movement. Whether you have a few hours or can make a longer commitment, we would like to talk to you.

Share Your Skills

Do your strengths include bookkeeping, administrative support, editing, proofreading, writing, contract review, marketing, development or volunteer coordination? Take a look at our list of skilled volunteer needs to see if there’s a task calling your name.

Volunteer at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference

Book Signing at 2014 VBF Conference photo by Tisha McCuistonVirginia’s premier gathering of organic and biological farmers, gardeners and eaters is just two months away! VABF needs 16 volunteers to help the 2015 conference happen. Conference volunteers will work some part of January 28, 29, 30 and 31. (Volunteers are eligible for discounted registration.) Details and an application on our web site.

Promote VABF & Biological Farming

photo by Tisha McCuiston

Photo by Tisha McCuiston

VABF always needs help with managing its display at farm and food events throughout the state. “Tabling” and help with farm tours or field days are great ways to help build Virginia’s organic movement and our organization. Other ways you can help promote VABF:

  • Let us know about upcoming events! Check our calendar and email us about statewide farm and food events.
  • Invite local businesses to sponsor VABF conference and website.
  • Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social media will help grow the organic movement!
  • Share your Virginia farming photos with us for our display and website.

Ready to help? Ready to work? Please email Sue Ellen Johnson.
Other interests, ideas or skills? We can probably use them! Contact us.


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Soil Biology Workshops with Elaine Ingham: December 3 & 4

Soil Food Web expert Elaine Ingham (www.soilfoodweb.com/) is presenting two full day workshops in Virginia as part of the Virginia Farm to Table Conference in Weyers Cave Dec 2-3. Register NOW!  

VABF is a partner on what will be a great gathering of folks interested in better soil biology stewardship. Click here to see flyer.

VABF is still purchasing food from biological producers for the Soil Biology workshop lunch on Dec 4 at VSU in Petersburg.

Elaine Ingham


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17 September E-News

EVENTS

Growers Academy

Thursday, 9/18th

A whole-package approach to successful grower business is here in Southwest Virginia!
See attachment here for more information and go to http://www.cpe.vt.edu/grac to register/

Small Ruminant Field Day at Randolph Farm

4415 River Road
Petersburg, VA 23806
September 19, 2014 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM

Registration for the Small Ruminant Field Day will close September 15th at 5PM.  For more information see flyer here.  If you have not had a chance to complete your registration please go to:

http://tinyurl.com/2014srfieldday

If you have already registered, thank you and you will receive a confirmation after registration closes.

$10.00 Registration Fee Per Person. (Includes continental breakfast, boxed lunch, take home materials) In addition there will be small ruminant meat and dairy samples available for tasting.

Reminder for Beginning Farmer Financial Planning Workshop

Sept. 22, 23, and 25

Experts from USDA Farm Service Agency and Farm Credit of the Virginias will discuss a variety of different financial tips and tools for those interested in becoming involved in agriculture including programs and services offered by both groups.  A great learning opportunity you don’t want to miss!  The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition is a proud partner of this series and will share additional resources for beginning farmer participants.

To RSVP to any of these three workshops, please contact Rebecca Webert at: 540-347-3344 x5514 or by email at RWebert@FCVirginias.com by September 18th.
The RSVP if for meal planning purposes only.

Three opportunities to participate:

September 22, 2014 – Christiansburg, VA
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Virginia Cooperative Extension Building Meeting Room
755 Roanoke Street, Christiansburg, VA

September 23, 2014 – Wytheville, VA
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Wytheville Meeting Center Facility
333 Community Boulevard, Wytheville, VA

September 25, 2014 – Chatham, VA
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex – USDA Service Center
19783 U.S. Highway 29, Chatham, VA

All three meetings will start with a light meal provided by Farm Credit of the Virginias.

To RSVP to any of these three workshops, please contact Rebecca Webert at:
540-347-3344 x5514 or by email at RWebert@FCVirginias.com by September 18th.

Persons with disabilities who require accommodations to attend or participate in this meeting should contact Susan Eilertson at
804-287-1580 or by email at Susan.Eilertson@va.usda.gov by September 15, 2014.   USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Getting Local Foods on the Menu:
A conversation with Anthony Flaccavento about institutions & restaurants

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
11:00am-12:00 pm Eastern Time
https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/foodshed

Learn about the Local Food Cost Calculator, a free and downloadable electronic spreadsheet that enables food buyers to calculate the true cost of using local food!
There are two versions of the calculator: one designed for college and university dining services and another for restaurants.
Visit www.ruralscale.com to find the calculator and the details of study.

This dynamic webinar will include:

A brief overview of research related to the tool’s development
An introduction to the Local Food Cost Calculator and best practices for stakeholders to make local food work in their setting. (e.g., Schools, Retailers, Extension, & NGOs, etc.)
A demonstration of how to use the calculator
An opportunity for questions and discussion with Anthony

Anthony Flaccavento has 30 years of hands-on experience in sustainable community development.
He has been a certified organic produce farmer for the past 15 years during which time he also founded and directed Appalachian Sustainable Development.
Anthony is also the author of Healthy Food Systems: A Tool Kit for building Value Chains and over 100 published articles.

If you are planning to participate, please go to this link to confirm your ability to log on to the Connect server: www.extension.iastate.edu/testconnect.

For best results, we suggest you use Firefox or Internet Explorer as your web browser. You do not need to register.
When entering the webinar, just enter as a guest (and type your name).
We encourage questions and dialogue with Anthony about the use of this tool to enhance the regions local food opportunities!
Therefore, participants will be given a phone number at the onset of the webinar to directly communicate during the 2nd half of the session.
Please plan to connect a few minutes before 11 am to ensure a good connection.

If you can’t make the webinar in real time, an archived recording will be available on the AFP website.

Opportunities

Southern SARE Producer Grant Calls for Proposals Released

GRIFFIN, Georgia – The Calls for Proposals for the 2014 Producer Grants, intended for farmers/ranchers and farmer/rancher organizations throughout the Southern region, are now available from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) program.

Proposal submission deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST on Nov. 17, 2014. Announcement of funded grants will take place in late February 2015.

Producer Grants are used to conduct sustainable agriculture research projects that solve agricultural production challenges farmers face and to develop information on what works and what doesn’t so that other farmers and ranchers facing those same challenges can benefit from the results of the funded project.

Producer grants are not designed to pay a farmer to farm; buy livestock, equipment, or land; make permanent farm improvements or support private enterprises through capital investments.  Southern SARE Producer Grants are research grants, designed to take some of the financial risk away from trying a solution to an agricultural production issue.

Projects may be funded for up to two years for a project maximum of $10,000 for an individual producer or $15,000 for a producer organization. Producer organizations should be comprised primarily of farmers/ranchers and must have a majority farmer representation on their governing board.

For detailed information on how to apply for a Producer Grant, download the current Producer Grant Call for Proposals.

The Producer Grant Call for Proposals includes application information, use of funds, proposal submission instructions, and contact information. Be sure to carefully follow the information in the Call for Proposals when submitting your proposal. Failure to follow the submission guidelines may result in your proposal being rejected.

Please contact nfmeyer@vt.edu if you have any questions.

Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America’s Southern region.

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