Wednesday, April 20, 2011


 Above; Flowering alfalfa plant.  Photo: Scott Bauer  Below: Corn. Photo Keith Weller USDA gallery
Here's important news from the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF):

Above: Sugar beets in the field. Photo: Peggy Grebs USDA gallery
On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit on March 29 against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past. The action seeks a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing organic farmers and seed growers if contaminated by Roundup Ready seed. [PUBPAT is a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy.]

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

"This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on their property," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. "It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients."

"Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that's not possible, and it's actually in Monsanto's financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply," said Ravicher. "Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB's and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not." 
"Transgenic seed should not be on the market. They are a threat to the future of farming and consumer freedom of choice," asserted Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of FTCLDF. "Monsanto should not be suing farms whose land the company's products contaminate; Monsanto should be paying them damages."

Go to the FTCLDF page to see the list of plaintiffs and to read more.

Here's more info from the Cornucopia Institute

Other actions you can take this month: If you live in the WA area, you can testify next week to the USDA in Seattle.
From the Cornucopia Institute

"Next week the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold its semiannual meeting in Seattle.  Three members of the policy staff from The Cornucopia Institute will be in attendance....

We have a lot to present.  Every citizen gets just 5 min. to speak and in the past you could speak a second 5 min. if you had a proxy from someone who could not attend the meeting.  The corporate-friendly chairperson of the panel just broke with tradition and eliminate the second 5 min.

There are some real hot button issues like will organic chickens have legitimate outdoor access and enough space inside buildings, will hogs be confined just like on factory farms and will the new potential rules put family-scale dairy farmers out of business.

If that's not enough a proposal is pending to allow any synthetic inorganic food as long as it allegedly has "nutrient value."  That could open the door to all kinds of bizarre novel substances that have no business in organics.  Turning organic food into what Michael Pollan calls "food-like substances."...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Community Garden on Blair and Second - last year's crops.
The three boys from Jenny Wilson's high school Community Service class - Cody, Parker, and Ryan - working on building a community greenhouse hope to site it on this educational garden property. The boys are also putting together a plan b and c in the event this site doesn't work out; other possible places to use as an alternate set up site, or as the place for temporary storage if the greenhouse is sited here, but needs to be moved at a later date to accommodate the county's plans for the property.

The boys' aim, as they explain it, is to grow greens for the school lunch program in their greenhouse, and make it sustainable by recruiting underclassmen each year to carry oversight of the greenhouse on, and to use the income from the greens to pay for supplies and maintenance. They decided this garden site they're hoping for is a pretty great spot for this use.

Heritage pear trees and the garden field . Maybe there will be a pretty little greenhouse out here, too!

What has happened so far: Land & Sea mentors Scott and Linda visited the Community Services class and talked about the community garden. These three students came up with the greenhouse idea for the site, then worked with Scott on getting a grant to fund the purchase. The agreement the chapter has for use of the property would have to be expanded to allow the boys to site their greenhouse. Scott, Linda and Marion of Land & Sea, as the contractor, checked with the county to see if that might be possible, and got a positive response. In the meantime, thanks to the boys' and mentor Scott's hard work and the work of another greenhouse student years before, the boys were approved for a grant. 
Now the three boys are working to get on the County Council's agenda to see if final approval from the County Council members is possible.

Some history: The opportunity for the boys to get this far in  this project was also made possible by the work of another Community Service class student a few years back who also was successful in getting funding to build a community greenhouse. That greenhouse was not built due to the difficulty of finding a property owner willing to site the project; the difficulty most times due to liability and related issues. The schools, fairgrounds, and other properties became not possible then for those reasons. His initial work, and the foundation holding the grant, helped make Parker, Ryan and Cody's new project possible.

Cody, Ryan, and Parker's project would be under their supervision, under the auspices of Land & Sea Slow Food chapter, so that if sited on the property on Blair and Second it would become part of our county agreement, if approved, and included in our insurance coverage. Land & Sea chapter would be willing to take ownership of the greenhouse in order to make this project possible, with the express intent to turn ownership over to the school or county if ever that is possible or desired by the school or county, and to make the greenhouse completely available for use by the school and community until that time comes. Any other ideas for ownership of the greenhouse will be welcomed;  Land & Sea's whole interest in this project is in making it possible. - Any one willing to take on ownership and responsibility in our place so this greenhouse can happen in a timely manner will be welcomed!

The greenhouse the boys chose is able to be moved, in case the time should come that the county would need the property for other uses.
These kids are really amazing, and so motivated! They worked on this individually and as a group all through the break to get their project ready to present.

A separate bank account within our non profit chapter would be opened, would be overseen by the kids who run the project, and would be devoted simply to the greenhouse. Any money coming in through Land & Sea to the greenhouse project will go into this account and then directly back to the greenhouse.
(See info at bottom of post about our main account).

Ryan, Parker and Cody are making plans for presentations to the FH Town and SJ County Councils, and will be doing a number of presentations to the public about their project.
We wish them the best with their project. They're amazing boys doing something a lot of people in our county are really excited about! Great job Guys!

[Land & Sea chapter's policy on financial donations: Donations go to our account at Islander's Bank. Any and all money that comes in goes directly back out into the community. Although we've rarely actively sought donations, donations offered to us have funded an irrigation system, our insurance coverage for the garden, and a small one-time stipend for our Community Projects/garden manager mentor this season.
Also funded: scholarships to the Quillisascut teaching farm, for 4 local young people so far. These scholarships are ongoing, are especially targeting local high school students and graduates, and have been provided by two local donors. The experiences the Quillisascut opportunity has provided for kids from our community has been called life changing by the participants. We actively seek young people who have been through Andy and Liz's Food For Thought Chef program. The first student we sent to Quillisascut  2 summers ago was a high school student in our Slow Food Youth program we had placed as an intern with Quail Croft Cheese here on the island. Her scholarship was provided by an  island resident who's also allowed us space in her greenhouse on the west side to grow starts in this spring.
Donations will also help fund a farm work internship program for young students, now in the works.]

A reminder of the lovely harvest from last year's first garden.