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Peak Season at Sang Lee Farms

Peak Season at Sang Lee Farms

Field Notes: NOFA-NY’s Summer Blog Series

This blog post is the first in our summer blog series highlighting NOFA-NY’s on-farm field days. We’ve got many more field days coming up in July and August – learn more here!

Host Farm: Sang Lee Farms
Location: Peconic, New York
Date: May 22, 2019

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On-farm Education at Fledging Crow Vegetables

On-farm Education at Fledging Crow Vegetables

On August 15, Fledging Crow Vegetables hosted a NOFA-NY field day at their Keeseville farm on “Quick and Clean: Planning for Efficient Harvest.” In this wide ranging field day, Fledging Crow farmer Ian Ater covered the history and development of their farm, how they manage their fields and cultivation to bring in large scale harvests, and how they are working to create washing and processing facilities that both meet their buyers’ food safety requirements while helping them efficiently handle produce.

Here are just a few highlights of the afternoon. Many thanks to Ian and all those at Fledging Crow Vegetables, as well as Dylan and Dan Badger of Ausable Brewing Company for your generous field day hosting.


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Will New York Become the Location of the First Worldwide Open-air Trials of a Genetically-engineered Diamondback Moth?

Will New York Become the Location of the First Worldwide Open-air Trials of a Genetically-engineered Diamondback Moth?

Thank you to Liana Hoodes, NOFA-NY's Policy and Advocacy consultant for this blog:

In 2014, Dr. Anthony Shelton of Cornell University was granted a USDA/APHIS permit for the world’s first open trials of a Genetically Engineered Diamondback moth (GDM)1 at the Geneva, NY Experiment Station. In 2015 the experiments were done outdoors in netted cages.

We don’t know the results of these trials, but in March 2016, following a request by USDA/APHIS, Cornell withdrew their permit. Within days a new permit application was re-submitted, and it is now working its way through USDA. After this, they will need NYS approval.  While it is unlikely that there will be any trials in 2016, open-air trials are scheduled to take place during the 2017 growing season. It is essential that we all understand the details of these trials – risks or rewards.

And it is essential that New Yorkers get a voice in the process.

During most of the past year, NOFA-NY, Food and Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth, and GeneWatchUK – have been requesting more detailed information from both USDA and Cornell about impacts as well as process. It has been slow in coming and many questions remain.

Whatever the pros and cons of the technology, it is high time for New Yorkers to have all the information in hand before the moths are let out into the environment.

Very little health and environmental review has been completed about this moth. Oxitec2, the developer of the GDM, neglected to complete the Health and Environmental studies required by the EU or the Cartegena Protocol, leaving many health and environmental questions unanswered. When pressed, they claim that this technology is similar to others that were already assessed. That’s just not true – this is the first open trial of the female lethality trait.

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2015: The Year to Label GMO Food in NY!

Time to Label GMOs in New York State!

By Elizabeth Henderson

2015 will be the year to label GMO foods in NYS! Area organic farmers, NOFA and our allies in the NY Label GMOs coalition are determined to pass legislation in the coming session, and you can help.

This is why we care so strongly:  First of all, food made from GMO ingredients is not labeled:  you do not have a choice about whether you want to participate in this massive experiment in novel kinds of food proteins some of which seem to cause allergies. 70 - 80% of the conventionally grown processed foods sold in grocery stores today have at least some GMO ingredient. GMO varieties are not tested independently for safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy not to require testing before approval for commercial sale was set against the advice of its own scientists.  There are memos dating to 1991 in which FDA scientists warn of potential health risks.  The FDA official who made the decision not to test each new genetically engineered variety was a former employee of Monsanto. The safety testing is done by the companies that sell the seeds.

[caption id="attachment_452" align="alignright" width="300"]Stacey Grabski-Early Morning-Daily Life Let's know the practices used on the fields where our food is grown!

Then there is the issue of contamination. The vast majority of GMO varieties are “Round-Up Ready,” that means, treated with the herbicide glyphosate plus supposedly inert additives that are added to make it more effective.  In 2010, there were 365 million acres in 29 countries planted with GMOs, with Round-Up Ready corn and soybeans making up the largest area.  During the first few years of these crops back in the 90’s, farmers were able to grow them with less herbicide than used previously.  Then the predictable came to pass - the weeds became more and more resistant so farmers poured on more herbicide until by now, there is Round-up in the waters of most states, in the air, in the soil and in the bloodstreams of new born infants.  While independent studies of the safety of GMO foods are scarce, there have been many studies of Round-Up that show it attacks the beneficial organisms in the human digestive system, causing serious health problems – increased birth defects, neurological developmental problems in children, kidney failures, respiratory problems and allergies. Studies also show that Round-Up is a powerful soil biocide, resulting in the increase of microbial plant pathogens, some of which form mycotoxins that can be very poisonous to humans and livestock.

One of the selling points of Round-Up is that it breaks down quickly and that is why you can purchase it off the shelf in garden and hardware stores.  That is accurate.  But what Monsanto does not mention is that Round-Up breaks down into AMPA, which lasts for a couple of decades and is more toxic than glyphosate.  To make things worse, to kill off the weeds that have become resistant to Round-Up, manufacturers are pushing new varieties that farmers can douse with both Round-Up and other herbicides like 2, 4 D, – and USDA is allowing this.

If you want to avoid eating GMOs, eating organically grown foods is the surest way. The National Organic Program that sets the standards for organic production in the US excludes the deliberate use of any GMO seed or materials.  Of course, this does not prevent contamination of organic crops, especially as the huge acreage in GMO crops continues to expand.  The responsibility and cost falls on certified organic farmers to show that they have taken measures to avoid contamination.

You are also safe eating vegetables and fruits from NY farms. Local vegetable and fruit farmers do not have to worry about GMO contamination from drift yet.  So far, the only GMO vegetables on the market are summer squash and a couple varieties of supersweet corn.  This is not to say that all summer squash and sweet corn you encounter uses GMO technology, so do ask your farmer (politely) about their varieties.  But be forewarned, any non-organic processed foods that contain corn or soybeans or any of their many derivatives are likely to be GMO.

Corporate money drowned out attempts at GMO labeling in California, Colorado and most recently in Oregon where the labeling law lost by only 800 votes. In Vermont, the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association is already suing the state to prevent the implementation of the labeling law that passed last year and is not to go into effect until 2016.

On the national scene there are two competing measures.  Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) is making a name for himself with H.R. 4432, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 dubbed the “DARK Act – Deny Americans the Right to Know” by the Organic Consumers Association. If adopted, it would preempt states from passing GMO labeling laws, nullify the GMO labeling laws already passed by Maine, Vermont and Connecticut, and make FDA’s current voluntary labeling system the law of the land. By contrast, the Boxer-deFazio bill, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, would require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

While a mandatory federal labeling law is the goal, pushing for state laws is the way to build up enough public pressure to pass it. Public opinion polls regularly show that more than 90% of Americans support GMO labeling. The corporations that bring us GMO foods have had two decades to label them voluntarily.  Had they done so with pride early on, the public might be less suspicious.

Assemblywoman Rosenthal and Senator Lavalle will be resubmitting the same labeling bill as in 2014 that will require that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in New York be labeled as such.  The bills will get new numbers when the legislative session begins in January. We all have the right to know what is in our food and the right to make informed choices about what we choose to eat. So let’s make this happen!  Please urge your state assembly reps and senators to sign on as sponsors! Plan to join the Label GMO Lobby Day, January 26, 2015 in Albany.  For the latest information on the campaign, go to!
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The Backyard Party a la Locavore

Sarah, our Membership and Development Coordinator shares her family's outdoor cooking experiences and adventures in smoked meats with us, in honor of the upcoming July 4th holiday (plus the entire rest of the summer and fall when we like to cook outdoors)

If you’re looking for noteworthy meat dishes or a satisfying food hobby, try smoking your meat! My husband started smoking meats last July for our daughter’s birthday party.  Here’s what we’ve learned since then.

[caption id="attachment_145" align="aligncenter" width="676"]Beef Brisket and Pork Butt Beef brisket and pork butt. The brisket was smothered with mustard and rubbed with brown sugar, chili flakes and powder, garlic and onion powder, paprika, pepper and salt. The pork was soaked in orange juice overnight with whole allspice, cloves and star anise and then rubbed with the same seasoning as the brisket. Smoked with apple wood at 180 – 200 degrees until reached temperature, about 20 hours for the brisket and 18 hours for the pork.

Buy Organic: Like any food, the quality of your meat starting from the source really matters! My husband and I have noticed that the texture of organic meat is far superior to non-organic meat, and requires less seasoning, if any, to be tasty.

Buy Local: Locally sourced meat is the way to go if you’re looking for freshness and to potentially save your pocket book. There are many ways to source your meat locally. We asked our local butchers if they were able to source local, organic food. If yours doesn’t offer an organic selection, their local selection will likely still be fresher and cheaper than meat at a grocery store. We also shopped around the markets, often finding that we liked different types and cuts from various farms. The price of meat at a farmers’ market may not always be the cheapest option, but we have found that it can sometimes be well worth the extra expense! In these cases, you could always ask the farmer if you can buy larger portions for a better price per pound.

Evaluate the Cut: The cut of your meat matters too! Brisket, for example, should flex easily when bent in half by hand and tastes best when it has a thick layer of fat on top, and well distributed marbling in a pork cut is ideal for pulled pork. Before you select your meat, do some research as to what the ideal characteristics are for your cuts of meat. There is no need to reinvent the wheel on this one.

[caption id="attachment_144" align="aligncenter" width="526"]Smoked trout caught by a neighbor from Lake Ontario. Salted overnight, lightly seasoned with dill, garlic granules, lemon slices rosemary and pepper. Smoked with apple wood at 180 degrees for 2 – 3 hours. This trout was caught by a neighbor from Lake Ontario. We salted it overnight, lightly seasoned with dill, garlic granules, lemon slices rosemary and pepper. After this picture was captured, we smoked the fish with apple wood at 180 degrees for 2 – 3 hours.

Pair your Wood: Typically, hickory and mesquite wood is used to smoke beef, while fruit woods offer a milder flavor for fish, poultry and pork. However, pair your meat and wood to your taste buds. I personally like the fruit woods best for all the meats we use, and we often get this wood from local farms.

Share the Goods: My husband usually cooks very large amounts of meat, but gives most of it away. We found sharing delicious food gets people talking about food, which inspires more delicious food. It has also sparked new and strengthened standing relationships within our community. He even brings his smoked meat back to the butcher to taste, and it’s never a bad idea to butter up your butcher.

And to add to all that goodness, we wanted to give you some extra options for locavore ideas during your outdoor cooking and eating adventures:

Once again, Kaela at Local Kitchen Blog is a source for grilled (meat) recipes and techniques suitable for the locavore cook--from 100% local ingredients to highlighting local meat with great sauces and marinades involving extra ingredients from farther off.

The veggies are amazing this time of year--here are locavore tips for making salad great.  If you're making a grain-based salad, that's an excellent choice for a vegetarian--include a cooked grain and a cooked bean and it's a very nutritious, filling locavore choice.  Try to use an actually-local grain (quinoa and rice are really only grown on an experimental scale at the moment in New York): farro, spelt berries, freekeh, wheat berries are all great choices that are often found locally-grown from farmers or at natural foods stores.  Grilled vegetables also go great on top of salad--no need to keep things 100% raw!

[caption id="attachment_141" align="aligncenter" width="676"]This summer locavore salad includes roasted tomatoes, sweet corn, kale, peppers, cabbage, zucchni, green beans, carrots.  Lettuce-less salads hold up very well over longer times, and can be prepared ahead. This summer locavore salad includes roasted tomatoes, sweet corn, kale, peppers, cabbage, zucchni, green beans, carrots. Lettuce-less salads hold up very well over longer times, and can be prepared ahead.

[caption id="attachment_142" align="aligncenter" width="676"]Farro atop greens, with some other veggies. Farro atop greens, with some other veggies.

Cold soups, when not too thick and nicely pureed, can be served in teacups, juice glasses, etc. to be made more hand-held than you'd normally think of for soups:

Marcus Samuelsson's Lemon-Scented Summer Squash Soup would be perfect in this situation, and as we're not yet tired of summer squash in early July.  If you find lemon balm or lemon basil from farm-fresh sources, you'll be able to eliminate the need for non-local lemons in this recipe; just include a bit of that herb, chopped up, along with the standard basil it calls for.  Need to simplify?  Eliminate the cooked-flour roux step and you'll have a less thick soup, and have spent less time with hot cooking.

Classic Tomato-based cold soups start off with the best tomatoes you can find (local and in-season only, please, as you need that amount of juiciness and flavor that far-traveled tomatoes don't have), whizzed in a blender, food processor or even crushed by hand.  Throw in some raw garlic, onion, peppers and herbs for a simple choice, or soak some old bread in the tomatoes' juice before pureeing for a thicker soup.  Cucumbers are not at all bad in this soup, either.

While we could once again expound the fact that butter, dairy and flour are all available locally, therefore cakes and cookies and pies are inherently locavore-ready, make the sweet side of your party or picnic even simpler and oven-free:

A chilled bowl of cut-up local fruits drizzled with a little local honey, will be amazing on a hot day.

You can even grill your fruit:  

Clean and dehull strawberries and skewer them, grill over the low heat and watch carefully.  They're "done" whenever you want them to be, probably not more than a few minutes will cause them to release their juices.  Just don't let them melt into the fire!

Make a foil "tray" and place cleaned berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries) and sliced rhubarb in a single layer.  Add a little sugar and about a tablespoon of butter.  Place flat on the grill and allow the berries to get juicy and cooked.  This makes a great topping for cakes, yogurt and ice cream.

Halves and slices of peaches, nectarines and melons will be great grilled once they come into season.

In the fall, try grilled apples and pears, sprinkled with cinnamon once they've been taken off the grill (burnt cinnamon isn't a great flavor).

[caption id="attachment_147" align="aligncenter" width="500"]grilled-peaches For something more advanced and decadent, Sarah recommends: Mix a stick of softened butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt together in a bowl. Cut 6 peaches in half and remove the pits. Baste the flat surface of the peaches with oil and place them flat side down onto the grill. Grill until golden brown and top with your butter mixture. Garnish with mint. If you use salted butter, you can skip the pinch of salt.

Need to keep your foods chilled?  No worries, do what farmers do at market: chill from below with a few packs of ice wrapped in towels underneath the bowl.  Be food-safe by changing the ice packs when needed.

Working with such nice ingredients and feeding large crowds means you should brush up on best practices for food safety working with raw meats.  Here are detailed (and perhaps extreme) guidelines from the FDA.


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