SIGN UP
for our email newsletter

FOG’s statement to U.S. House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Listening Session

Below is FOG’s statement to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee in Gainesville, FL on June 24, 2017.   

I’m Marty Mesh, ED of Florida Organic Growers, a non-profit that we established in 1987. I personally started growing organically in 1973. FOG provides outreach and education to farmers and consumers as well as operates an accredited certification program.  We collaborate in organic research projects and in other educational project work.  As the largest certifier on the eastern seaboard, we certify operations nationally and internationally in all scopes. FOG also operates a Statewide FINI funded project potentially benefiting all Florida direct market growers and SNAP users and has long been a leader in widely recognized food system improvement projects.

You should have heard the figures, the 75 billion dollar global marketplace, the fastest growing sector of ag since 1990, etc. The organic industry has provided a viable economic opportunity for many farmers who otherwise may have gone out of business amongst declining commodity prices and farm consolidations. Organic has also provided an entryway for many young and beginning farmers. For the State of Florida this has resulted in over 450 organic businesses. With real Federal investment that number could be a lot higher and the ROI on that investment would be impressive. The National Organic Certification Cost Share program is a vital program for many of those new entries and family scale operators to be able to participate in the organic marketplace.

Organic is a voluntary regulatory program that provides uniform, consistent standards in order to meet consumer expectations. We need adequate authority, accountability, and resources for the National Organic Program. This is necessary to keep pace with industry growth, to continue to set standards, and to carry out compliance and enforcement actions in the U.S. and abroad.

Increased funding for research on organic production methods is CRITICAL to the survival of organic farms and growth of the sector. Support for the flagship Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) program will ensure that organic farmers can continue to meet the unique challenges they face and farmers interested have good research to base decisions on.  UF has received over $4 million in funding to conduct organic research, including several grants funded through OREI that have been critical to the success of Florida organic farmers. This at a University who told me years ago that growing organic blueberries in Florida was just not possible.  Now a few miles from here, there are over 200 acres of organic blueberries. UF offers an organic degree program originating from a small SSARE grant that FOG wrote and implemented.

We also have an opportunity in this farm bill to facilitate transition to organic by improving access to land and capital; and investment in infrastructure, and targeted technical assistance. Existing USDA conservation, rural development, and other potential programs such as transitional certification can help encourage growers to check out a sector which presents an economic opportunity to deal with supply side shortages.  It is way past time to adequately invest resources in the fastest growing segment of agriculture providing multiple benefits.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide remarks today. The organic industry looks forward to working with the committee in developing the next farm bill.

Early Bird Registration open for Organic Food and Farming Summit!

For the past 30 years, Florida Organic Growers has been hard at work fighting for farmers in the name of organic agriculture and just food systems. To celebrate this momentous milestone, FOG is holding the inaugural Organic Food & Farming Summit September 17-19 in Gainesville.

This inaugural Summit is an opportunity for beginning and seasoned organic farmers and producers to learn and share with others growing in tropical and sub-tropical conditions and seasons.

The Summit will provide venues to interact and engage with leaders and peers in organic agriculture. Workshop sessions, farm tours, day-long trainings and a special keynote speaker are just a few of some the ways knowledge can be gained at this one-of-a-kind event.

There are multiple ways to partner with us to ensure a successful Summit including sponsorship, participating in the two day tradeshow or submitting a proposal to be a speaker. Visit the website to learn more!

The Summit will inspire, educate, and inform the diverse work of farmers, professionals, advocates, consumers, and others involved in Florida’s sustainable farm and food systems movement.

Early bird registration is now open, register today!

For more information, please contact Summit Coordinator Andi Emrich at andi@foginfo.org or 352-377-6345.

FOG celebrates 30 years of supporting organic and sustainable agriculture!

30 year logo_transparentFOG has carried out its mission for 30 years by providing communities throughout the state with programs and resources that promote and support organic and sustainable agriculture and local and just food systems.

From beginning as a grassroots organization with the office located in someone’s kitchen or an unused corner of a barn to an established organization with programs that educate producers, consumers, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture , Florida Organic Growers has continually made an impact in communities around Florida.

Our EBT program promotes healthy eating by allowing the local farmers market  to accept food stamps. Our Fresh Access Bucks program increases the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by providing a one-to-one match for Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Our farmer workshops educate and equip farmers with the tools and resources they need as well as the opportunity to share best practices. These farm-based, peer teaching events act as an opportunity to share best practices  and further develop the network of like-minded farmers in Florida.

Food justice advocacy is vital to who we are and for the last 30 years. FOG’s programs in increasing access to healthy, fresh food for low income families, educating youth on the importance of eating produce and advocating for policies that improve conditions for organic and family farms are all important contributions to food justice advocacy. In addition, we are proud to be a co-founder and to continue to support the work of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) whose mission is to work towards empowerment, justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail.

EBT pictureIn 2001, FOG received its USDA accreditation to certify farms as organic under its certification program, Quality Certification Services (QCS). QCS is a USDA and ANSI ISO/IEC 17065 accredited certification body that offers a wide array of certification options for farming, livestock, aquaculture, compound animal feed, packing, handling, processing, and wild harvest operations. We are excited to offer certification options to farms and producers to set them apart.

Our involvement on a national scale has propelled the fight for the organic food and farming movement.

FOG is one of the leading organizations in the nation ensuring the voices of small farmers are heard as new federal food safety regulations are being developed. Our work with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), to name a few, has given strength and momentum to organic and sustainable farmers moving forward.

We invite you to support us as we are excited to see our work in action this year and making an impact in years to come!

Organic Spinach Production System Workshop

Interested in growing organic spinach? Want to learn more?

Don’t miss the Organic Spinach Production System Workshop on Thursday, February 9!

Held at the University of Florida Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra from 1pm to 4pm, this FREE workshop will cover all things spinach, including:

  • Organic spinach production challenges
  • Nutrient management using compost and organic fertilizer
  • Growing spinach under high tunnels
  • Fall and spring production comparisons
  • Microbial loads and postharvest decay
  • Postharvest handling and storage

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn! Be sure to reserve your spot today, space is limited! Register here!

This joint Kansas State University-University of Florida research & extension project is supported by the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food Security Competitive Grants Program (Award # 2014-68004-21824).

Gratitude and Thanks from Executive Director Marty Mesh

As I think back on this year and look toward 2017, I am filled with gratitude for the past and optimism for the future as, together, we have accomplished so much in growing the organic food and farming movement in Florida and beyond. There are so many challenges and so much work to be done going forward that it will clearly be a busy year!

This past year, we worked hard every day to increase access to organic, local food; support organic farmers; and provide information and resources to growers and consumers across the state. From expanding Fresh Access Bucks to more than 30 markets around the state to analyzing public policy and advocating for improvements in food safety, the Farm Bill and local food systems to hosting farmer workshops, we have worked towards making Florida’s organic food and farming movement a real political and economic force.

With your year-end, tax-deductible donation, we can maintain our momentum in 2017.

Next year marks our 30th year of fighting for organic farmers and strengthening local food systems. We have exciting plans for 2017 and want YOU to join us!

Connecting farmers with those who need us most

snap-fabIn 2017, Fresh Access Bucks will work with more than 45 direct-to-consumer outlets to benefit more than 18,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida, massively increasing farmer revenue! The program will do this by training more than 350 farmer producers to accept SNAP/EBT at farmers markets and direct-to-consumer outlets around the state.

Growing the next generation of organic farmers

We are excited to continue our mission of educating organic farmers and equipping them with the tools needed for both short-term and long-term success. In addition to hosting multiple on-farm workshops in 2017, we are excited to again plan a statewide Organic Farmer Training workshop. Stay tuned for more details…we want you there!

Further, we are looking forward to continuing innovative ways to educate and train farmers about organic farming and local food systems.

Seeking change through collaboration

FOG will continue to drive public policy and advocacy on behalf of organic farmers and consumers who want to support such common sense priorities as better access to healthier food for all and for protecting our fragile natural resources. Our presence in Washington, D.C. for Hill days as well as active involvement with leading advocacy organizations has propelled organic and sustainable agriculture forward and helped broaden and deepen the understanding of its importance.

We have been fortunate to form supportive partnerships with like-minded businesses and organizations over the years and welcome more. The broader our networks become, the farther our impact can reach.

Your generosity is an act of hope

We are so thankful to those who support FOG – your contributions allow us to continue to invest in organic farmers, farmworkers and the education and research needed to help organic farmers be successful.

We need your support now more than ever – join us and let’s make a difference in our state and beyond.

Thank you in advance for your vital contribution.

Marty Mesh
Executive Director

Register NOW for Southern SAWG Annual Conference

We are excited to partner with Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) to promote their Annual Conference! ssawglogo3-color-small

For over 25 years the Southern SAWG Annual Conference has been providing the practical tools and solutions you need at our annual conference. It is the must-attend event for those serious about sustainable and organic farming and creating more vibrant community food systems!

The conference will be held January 25-28, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.

The popular pre-conference events begin on Wednesday and include a great line-up of one-and-a-half day intensive short courses, Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), and then on Thursday, several exciting half-day field trips and mini courses. 

The general conference is held on Friday and Saturday. The general conference, with a wide variety of program offerings and 90 expert presenters, gives you the opportunity to learn vast amounts in a short two days! 

The general conference line-up includes 56 educational sessions, plus a state networking session for each of the 13 states in our region, and another 16 information exchange sessions where you get to exchange ideas and information with those who share your interests. 

Also included in the cost of the general conference registration are a trade show, research posters, and the Taste of Kentucky dinner.

Learn more about the conference and register here!

Conservation Stewardship Program accepting applications

A major farmer and rancher funding opportunity is now available!

USDA is currently accepting initial applications for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – a national program that rewards farmers for protecting and enhancing natural resources on their working lands. CSP funding includes expanded options for conservation activities and an increased minimum payment to help smaller-scale producers. Contracts may include cover crops and rotational grazing to ecologically-based pest management.

Interested farmers should visit their local NRCS office and fill out a short form by February 3, 2017 to take advantage of this opportunity.

Learn more here!

 

Fresh Access Bucks kicks off season with team updates and new markets

FAB-RGB-TransparentFlorida’s season is in full swing, and the Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) team is busier than ever! We have some updates on the team implementing the FAB incentives program across Florida as we prepare for an exciting 2017.

The FAB team is sad to say farewell to Program Manager Carmen Franz. Carmen has been instrumental in growing the Fresh Access Bucks program from infancy, and was responsible for program management, development, and training new market partners. We wish Carmen the best in her future endeavors!

Katie Delaney and Mary Hathaway are currently leading the FAB program. They will manage development and handle training for current and new markets. Kayvon Bahramian will continue to provide SNAP tech support to farmers markets throughout Florida.

Fresh Access Bucks is a statewide program incentivizing SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at participating farmers markets to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida farmers. The program matches what a SNAP cardholder spends, up to $20 every market day. Customers can use their Fresh Access Bucks tokens right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Visit the FAB website for the markets currently participating in the program. New markets will be added this fall!

katie_kayvon_mary-imageFresh Access Bucks Team (L to R): Katie Delaney, Kayvon Bahramian and May Hathaway  

Scholarships Available for 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is pleased to announce the availability of a limited number of scholarships to help with the cost of attending the 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place on January 25-26, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately preceding the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG).

Scholarships up to $350 will be awarded based on the need and merit of the applicant. The scholarship funds may be used for symposium registration ($90-$120), travel and one night of lodging.

Learn more here.

 

 

Organic Farming Research Foundation accepting abstracts for symposium

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is seeking submission of research abstracts for presentation at the 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place on January 25-26, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately preceding the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG).

The symposium will feature researchers from all disciplines related to organic farming and food systems, and other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards.The intent of the symposium is to provide current information to farmers, ranchers, extensionists, educators, agricultural professionals and others interested in organic agriculture.

The deadline is October 1!

Learn more here!