News and Tips
A discussion on the Sustainable Ag. Network (email@example.com) had some interesting ideas for controlling weeds in asparagus plantings. One suggested throwing chicken feed over the patch after the asparagus dies back in the fall, then letting chickens feed there and scratch the area clean of weeds. Another suggested planting asparagus into a living mulch of Dutch White clover. Establish the clover in the fall, dig furrows for the asparagus in the spring and plant the crowns, then seed more clover over the rows.
Reseed thin areas of clover each fall. A third method is to till asparagus beds shallowly before the asparagus spears begin to emerge in the spring. And a fourth is to hill plants with wood mulch and compost. The last suggestion was said to be labor intensive, but with mechanized mulchers now available, maybe it would be feasible even for larger scale plantings, especially if the mulcher were cooperatively owned by several growers.
(See, for example, an ad for a Millcreek Row Mulcher, which automates application of mulch and compost to field-grown and nursery container stock, in American Nurseryman, 10/15/98, p. 38.)
Need help with an insect or disease that is troubling your crop or garden? Try accessing the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Pest Management Web Page at http://pmo.umext.maine.edu. You can download a form from this site that you can complete and send to the Pest Management Office with a pest sample to be identified.
You can also link to about 20 other pest management sites from here, as well as to the Garden Web (http://www.gardenweb.com), where gardeners share a wealth of information. For specific questions, you can email Bruce Watt at the Pest Management Office (firstname.lastname@example.org). The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service also has a web page: http://www.umext.maine.edu.
‘Prelude’ (NY 1009) has a very early ripening summer crop, and a fall primocane crop.
Fruits are medium size, dark red and mild in flavor. Promising for winter hardiness.
‘Encore’ (NY 7) is a very late ripening, summer-bearing raspberry. Fruits are large and firm with good flavor. Yields are good, and plants are vigorous and look promising for winter hardiness.
‘Caroline’ (JCR-f1) is an everbearing raspberry, about seven days earlier than ‘Heritage’.
Its fruits are large and slightly soft with good color and flavor. The vigorous plants look promising regarding winter hardiness.
‘Autumn Britten’ is a sister seedling of ‘Autumn Bliss’ and is an everbearing raspberry, about 12 days earlier than ‘Heritage." Fruits are medium to large in size and fairly firm.
Winter hardiness is unknown, but ‘Autumn Bliss’ has been successful in Southern Maine.
‘Mira’ is a midseason ripening strawberry with large fruit and high yield potential. Plants are vigorous and have some resistance to red stele root rot and leaf diseases. Its performance and fruit quality at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, Maine, have been very good.
‘Cabot’ (K92-17) ripens mid- to late season and has very large, bright red, firm fruits with tender skins. The plants need high fertility to maintain vigor. They have some resistance to red stele, but the fruits are susceptible to gray mold unless an effective management plan is followed.
‘Sable’ (K90-1) ripens early and has medium to large fruits with very good flavor—but they are soft. Plants are vigorous with some resistance to red stele.
Source: "New Varieties of Small Fruit," by David Handley, Vegetable & Small Fruit Specialist, Vegetable & Berry News, Oct. 7, 1998, Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension, Highmoor Farm, PO Box 179, Monmouth ME 04259; Tel. 207-933-2100.
David Nielsen of the USDA Central Great Plains Research Station at Akron, Colorado, says that sunflower stalks make great windbreaks and snow fencing on wheat farms in the Plains. Sunflower heads are harvested, leaving stalks that are about 30-inches tall.
Source: HortIdeas, Sept. 1998, "Sunflowers for Snow Fencing and Windbreaks," by Greg and Pat Williams, 750 Black Lick Rd., Gravel Switch KY 40328. Original reference: "Sunflowers Can Be a Combination Snow Fence, Wind Barrier and Cash Crop..." Quarterly Report of Selected Research Projects, April 1-June 30, 1998, 3. (ARS information, 6303 Ivy Lane, 4th Floor, Greenbelt, MD 20770.)
Toward the end of February we sometimes get a few days when the temperature seems high enough for pruning to take place. How do you decide when to start? The following comments from Jim Schupp, Extension Fruit Specialist at the Univ. of Maine, were published in the Weekly Market Bulletin of the N.H. Dept. of Agriculture (2/11/98):
Dormant pruning is best completed before new growth resumes in the spring. There is, however, a certain amount of risk of winter injury associated with dormant pruning in the dead of winter.
Pruning wounds stimulate a healing response in the trees, which lowers their tolerance to subzero temperatures. This loss of hardiness lasts for 10 to 14 days after the cuts are made. If severe subzero temperatures occur during this time, they can result in the death of the tissue surrounding the pruning wound, which in turn results in poor healing and increases the possibility of infection by cankers.
Follow these tips to avoid this type of injury and minimize the damage:
1. If the orchard is small, postpone pruning until the threat of subzero temperatures has passed.
2. Keep an eye on the long-range weather forecast, and suspend pruning activities when there is a threat of an arctic air mass moving into the region.
3. Prune the hardiest varieties first. McIntosh, Cortland and most summer ripening varieties should be pruned first; Delicious (both kinds), Spy and Marshall Macs last.
4. Prune trees on seedling and MM111 rootstocks first, followed by trees on M.26 and mark. Prune trees on MM.106 and M.7 later.
A footnote to timing: How late can you prune? Pruning shortly after growth has resumed in spring is okay, but some of the tender buds will be damaged by falling branches. All pruning should stop by full bloom.
By bloom, trees have exhausted all of their winter reserves and are very dependent upon the new leaves to supply the carbohydrates needed to support the growth of both tree and fruit. Pruning after full bloom will weaken the tree and result in reduced fruit set and fruit size.
Cover Crops, Strip Tillage Build Soil
A SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) project testing cover crops and new tillage regimes in Oregon has helped vegetable farmers improve crop yields, beat weeds, lower input costs and reduce agricultural runoff. Researchers worked with several growers in the Willamette Valley to fine-tune their use of cover crops. Legumes add nitrogen to the soil; grains capture excess nitrogen. The long-term project measures those environmental benefits plus profit potential against cover crop costs. Wet springs and a strict planting schedule dictated by vegetable processing companies pose challenges to growers trying to incorporate cover crops. Researchers sought a combination of covers that can fix nitrogen and add organic matter but be killed in early spring. A winter cover of oats, vetch and Austrian winter peas, followed by strip-tilling sweet corn, brought better yields. Strip-till—working a narrow band in between wider strips of residue-covered soil—helps address moisture concerns and enables farmers to prepare a seedbed in just one pass of the tractor. In three fields enrolled in those trials, the strip-tillage system returned $100 per acre more than the standard tillage system in increased yield and cost savings from reduced tillage. On one farm, tillage savings equaled about $30 per acre. Not tilling the ground also keeps habitat in place for beneficial insects, reducing the need for pesticides for growers trying to combat cutworms in corn.
Source: SARE 1998 Project Highlights, available from Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Bldg., Univ. of Vt., Burlington VT 05405-0082; Tel. 802-656-0471;
When planning your garden for next year, consider these possibilities from George Hamilton of the Univ. of N.H. Cooperative Extension:
Headlines last summer announced "Garlic’s Charm Debunked" when the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study showing that a garlic oil supplement had no effects on blood lipid levels or cholesterol metabolism. Rob McCaleb of the Herb Research Foundation has debunked the debunk by pointing out that the sample size of the study--25--was too small to be definitive; that an inferior garlic oil supplement was used; that well done, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies have shown that standardized dried garlic powders, dietary garlic and aged garlic extract are helpful, especially in reducing "bad" LDL cholesterol; and that over 45 clinical studies have shown other cardiovascular benefits of garlic supplements.
Source: Herb Research News, Spring 1998, from the Herb Research Foundation, 1007 Pearl St., Suite 200, Boulder CO 80302.
Want to chop plant material for the compost heap? Consider this tip from Echo Development Notes (17430 Durrance Road, N. Fort Myers, FL 33917): a heavy-duty paper shredder is mounted at one end of a narrow table and is topped with a three-sided wooden "chute." One person feeds wastes into the chute, the other works the cutting blades. A wheelbarrow can catch the chopped waste. Such a setup can cost as little as $40 and can handle most green material, small prunings and cornstalks.
‘Get Set’ Red Welsh onions are bunching onions, Allium fistulosum, that start from seed as small, scallion-like onions, then grow larger as the season progresses. Left unharvested they die back in early winter and are among the first plants to grow again in spring.
In their second year, they continue to grow and begin to produce more onions from their root base, forming the "bunch." Each year after that, the bunch multiplies. Onions can be harvested by pulling a few plants from the bunch. Populations can be enlarged by separating the bunches and allowing them to multiply. They also go to seed, sending up a 2- to 3-inch seed head that blooms and forms true seed in mid to late summer. The seed heads dry on their stalks and can be harvested in late summer.
In Maine, bunching onions have a valued role as providing fresh green onions in early spring and through fall. I tend to stop harvesting them in late summer, while they are going to seed, or just use the onions in the bunch that are too young to go to seed. They get used heavily all spring and then again in fall.
‘Get Set Red’ has a reddish blush on the bottom 2 inches of its stalks. The onions get to be 18 inches tall. They have only a slight bulbous swelling at their base, which can grow to be as thick as your thumb. Undivided, my clusters have gotten to be about a foot across. They have won a place in my heart by being so welcome in my kitchen.
Source: "’Get Set Red’ Welsh Onion," by Roberta Bunker, The SeedBed, Spring 1998;
Published by the Maine Seed Saving Network, P.O. Box 126, Penobscot ME 04476.
Harvesting potato vines for silage to feed to cattle can benefit the cattle, potato growers and the environment, says agricultural engineer Richard E. Muck at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Potato vines are normally killed with herbicides about two weeks before potatoes are harvested. This practice prevents the leftover vines from providing a home for insects and plant diseases that could damage the crop the following year. Another benefit of killing the vines is that potato skins "set" faster. The skin of the potato tuber is easily scuffed, peeled or scraped unless it has time to thicken and harden after harvest. This process accelerates if the vines are removed all at once.
Muck, who is with the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA, says that "potato vines can be turned into silage in combination with other crops to produce a high-protein, low-fiber cattle feed. The savings for U.S. potato growers could be as much as $42 million annually." At least 80% of the 1.3 million acres of potatoes grown in the United States is treated with a single vine-killing herbicide at a cost of $35 per acre. The other 20% may receive a double dose costing $50 an acre. Feeding the vines to animals will mean less herbicide in the environment and less out-of-pocket expenditures for growers.
Vines contain 85 to 90% water, so Muck says that the best method for making silage from the watery vines is to mix them with drier crops, such as chopped alfalfa hay, barley, and chopped whole-plant corn.
Source: Agricultural Research, Oct. 1998; Richard E. Muck is with the USDA-ARS U.S.
Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, Wisconsin; phone 608-264-5245; e-mail email@example.com.
Know any good sustainable farmers or ranchers? If so, "1000 Ways to Sustain U.S.
Agriculture," a pilot project funded by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program, wants to hear from you.
SARE and project partners hope to paint a clearer picture of sustainable agriculture by profiling successful farmers and ranchers. While the case studies will describe production and marketing practices, they also will detail how these practices improve profitability, the environment, rural communities and the families’ quality of life.
"Sustainable agriculture defies simple definition," says Dr. John Ikerd, an agricultural economist at the University of Missouri-Columbia and coordinator of the project. "The best way to communicate the meaning of sustainable agriculture is through real-life stories of people who are developing these systems in their own fields.
"To be sustainable, these operations must be profitable," adds Ikerd, who is also coordinator of the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program at the University of Missouri. "But these producers aren’t maximizing profits at the expense of family, community and the environment." Craig Cramer, former editor of The New Farm magazine and author of the Sustainable Farming Connection web site, will research and write the profiles.
To recommend a farmer or rancher, to comment on the project, or for more information, contact Cramer (firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-753-8925) or visit the project’s web site (http://1000ways.baka.com).
Tokar and Lawn on Tape
Brian Tokar, a social ecologist from Goddard College, and CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds, spoke about "Agricultural Biotechnology: Risky Business" at the Common Ground Country Fair in September. You can order a copy of the talk from Radio Free Maine, "The C-Span of the Left," at PO Box 2705, Augusta, ME 04338. Audio tapes cost $10.50; VHS videos are $19.00. Checks or money orders should be made payable to Roger Leisner. A catalog listing other productions of interest to social activists will be sent with the order. To request a catalog without an order, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (75 cents postage) to Leisner.
Organic Dairy Producers Increase Profits
Vermont organic dairies boosted their profitability and more farms are joining their ranks, thanks in part to a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)-supported study answering farmers’ questions about producing milk organically. Market demand—in 1997, Vermont’s Organic Cow dairy paid $18 per hundredweight of milk, nearly $6 more than conventionally produced milk—has sparked producer interest in organic production. The project features case studies of eight organic and transitioning farms, comparing such diverse factors as economics, milk quality and herd health in a whole-farm system approach. Dairy producers who have adopted some project recommendations—such as using management-intensive grazing, feeding quality forages and replacing commercial fertilizers with green manure—have seen profitability soar. At one farm, profits climbed 40% over the three years of the project as the farmers improved management and reduced expenses. At another organic operation, the cost of producing milk dropped by $5,000 over the three years. A third farm increased gross income from $125,000 to $165,000, cutting its debt-to-cow ratio in half. Because the project emphasizes outreach, it assisted many farmers beyond the study group.
Source: SARE 1998 Project Highlights, available from Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Bldg., Univ. of Vt., Burlington VT 05405-0082; Tel. 802-656-0471;
Readers with Internet access can now download 38 ATTRA (Alternative Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) informational packets on the World Wide Web at www.attra.org. The ATTRA homepage also lists other materials available from ATTRA.
Those website materials are:
Alternative Farming Systems:
Sustainable Ag. Resources:
These publications are also available by contacting ATTRA at P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville AR 72702; Tel. 1-800-346-9140. There is no charge for the publications.
Source: ATTRAnews, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 1998; Quarterly Newsletter of Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville AR 72702.
According to a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), entitled, "The English Patients: Human Experiments and Pesticide Policy," results from four experiments testing pesticides on humans have been submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1992, and EPA regulators believe that more are underway in the United Kingdom. Human subjects are being used increasingly to get around U.S. regulations that require that a safety factor be added when the toxicity of pesticides is tested on animals other than humans. Chemical companies are using the tests to claim that U.S. limits for some pesticide residues in foods are too high.
For decades, pesticide manufacturers have been feeding their products to rats, rabbits, mice and guinea pigs in thousands of controlled laboratory studies, all designed to satisfy government regulatory requirements for pest control chemicals. Studies on lab animals are still routinely conducted for pesticides, but in recent years, in a number of studies that are raising ethical and scientific questions inside and outside government, the products are being tested on humans—primarily in England and Scotland, according to "The English Patients."
Last year, Amvac Chemical Corporation, a California pesticide company, hired a lab in England to conduct three related feeding trials using people to test the toxicity of dichlorvos, a common ingredient in pet collars and pest strips. In one, volunteers drank the neurotoxic insecticide when it was mixed with corn oil. In a 1992 study in Scotland commissioned by Rhone-Poulenc, the French chemical giant, volunteer subjects were paid to ingest the extremely toxic insecticide aldicarb mixed with orange juice. People in both tests suffered neurotoxic effects.
Neither U.S. nor U.K. pesticide guidelines require studies on humans. Officials at EPA informally discourage such studies on ethical and scientific grounds, refusing even to review study methods beforehand. In fact, EPA has no policies or oversight system in place to ensure that humans involved in such experiments are protected.
According to EWG, however, the agency is nonetheless accepting human experimental studies
submitted by pesticide companies, several of which have been used in at least two recent cases to weaken EPA regulatory decisions.
The report states that by substituting people for lab animals, pesticide companies have, in effect, been able to increase the amounts of pesticide that can be used legally on crops or detected on foods, in water or in air. More studies are underway in the United Kingdom, according to EPA scientists, although they do not know how many, where they are being conducted, or for what pesticides. The EWG strongly opposes experiments that deliberately expose humans to pesticides or other environmental toxins in order to determine "safe" or "acceptable" levels of pollution for people. It is asking EPA to conduct a comprehensive study on the use of human subjects in past and recent environmental research, modeled after the landmark 1995 Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. Once the study is completed, EWG says, EPA should issue policy and guidelines for public comment on the use of humans in environmental research. The rules must provide for thorough monitoring, EWG says, including consideration of special ethical considerations that distinguish research on humans with toxic contaminants from research for drugs and medicines.
The EWG also recommends an immediate moratorium on human experimentation of the type conducted for dichlorvos, aldicarb and perhaps other pesticides for purposes of pesticide regulation. The group also asks EPA to suspend any pesticide approvals if the agency is unable to affirm that the studies were conducted according to U.S. ethical standards.
"The English Patients" is available from EWG for $5 plus $3 for postage and handling. The report is also available atwww.ewg.org.
Sources: Press release from the Pesticide Action Network of North America, 8/14/98; Science News, "Human pesticide experimentation," Aug. 22, 1998.
Two sets of studies suggest that an herbicide and an insecticide may be partly responsible for the decline in frog populations and for the increased observations of deformities in frogs.
In September, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) released results of a preliminary test that suggested that sulfonylurea herbicides—used on corn, along railway beds and by utilities in Vermont—caused deformed limbs to develop when frogs were exposed to high rates and, in lower concentrations, slowed the rate at which frogs reabsorb tails as they develop from tadpoles. The latter suggests that the herbicides may also affect thyroid activity—and consequently the multiple developmental stages controlled by thyroid hormones. This could indicate that the herbicide may harm humans, as well. These tests reflected laboratory and not field conditions. VPIRG wants the state or federal government to take the studies further.
Meanwhile, Michael Berrill of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, an his colleagues exposed eggs and tadpoles of the wood frog, green frog and American toad to the organochlorine compound endosulfan, simulating conditions that may occur when endosulfan drifts from farms into drainage ditches, ponds and other wet areas where these animals breed.
The eggs hatched normally but highest rates of endosulfan depressed the frogs’ "avoidance behavior" temporarily, possibly increasing their vulnerability to predation.
Tadpoles either died (30 to 100% death rates, depending on the pesticide concentration) or exhibited hyperactivity—whiplike convulsions followed by temporary paralysis. Growth was also slowed.
Endosulfan is commonly used against aphids and other insects, and mites, on many fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, oilseed and cotton. Berrill and his coworkers say that its hazard to frogs and toads "is sufficiently great to warrant its replacement by less toxic alternatives wherever possible."
Sources: "Interest Group Requests Study of Herbicides," Bangor Daily News, Sept. 4, 1998; "Common Pesticide Clobbers Amphibians," Science News, Sept. 5, 1998.
NGOs Want Informed Consent on Pesticides
On September 10, 1998, ministers and senior officials from approximately 100 countries signed the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. The Convention must be ratified by 50 governments before it takes effect. A coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) negotiated and welcomed the agreement and called for its speedy implementation. The coalition included Consumers International (UK), International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF), Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment, Pesticides Action Network (PAN): Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America Regional Centers, and the Pesticides Trust (UK).
The purpose of the binding Prior Informed Consent (PIC) agreement is to provide governments with information about certain hazardous chemicals and allow them to decide whether imports of the chemicals should continue. To be included on the list, a pesticide must be banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons in at least two countries in different regions. Initially the agreement will include 22 pesticides and five industrial chemicals already covered by the voluntary PIC procedure, with the possibility of more being added.
Barbara Dinham of the Pesticides Trust, part of the PAN network, said, "The need is urgent. There is pressure on global agriculture to increase production, and developing countries frequently provide a market for older, cheaper and hazardous pesticides. This Convention will alert governments to health and environmental concerns and help them stop unwanted imports."
The coalition welcomed the agreement to include "severely hazardous pesticide formulations" in the Convention. This will cover pesticides that cause either health or environmental problems under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition. In these cases, just one notification that a pesticide will be banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons will be enough to alert attention and call on the Secretariat to assist in collecting information needed to determine whether it should be put on the PIC list.
Concerns still exist, however. To be included as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation, the agreement requires that information must be compiled on specific incidents in developing countries, the adverse effects, and the way in which the formulation was used. Experience of NGOs confirms that such detailed evidence is extremely difficult to compile. Incidents occur far from medical facilities and regulatory authorities, and many farmers are unaware of what pesticides they are using, since pesticides are often sold in unmarked sachets.
PIC is jointly operated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Plant Protection Division and U.N. Environment Programme through its International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Geneva. Pesticides banned or severely restricted are:
2,4,5-T, aldrin, captafol, chlordane, chlordimeform, chlorobenzilate, DDT, dieldrin, dinoseb and dinoseb salts, 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), fluoroacetamide, HCH (mixed isomers), heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, mercury compounds used in agriculture, pentachlorophenol. Severely hazardous pesticide formulations are: monocroptophos, methamiodophos, phosphamidon, methyl parathion and parathion.
Source: Pesticide Action Network North America press release, 49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102; 415-981-1771.
The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGP) is a collaborative effort to return farmers and gardeners to the practice of characterizing and saving seed. With support from the Fund for Rural America and administered by Oregon Tilth, the FCGP explores the feasibility of a cooperative marketing structure that rewards producers for maintaining our nation’s most vital resource base—the seed.
Seeds are the source of agricultural enterprise. The hybrid corn, wheat and rice improvements ushered in a new era of agriculture throughout the world. Unfortunately, farmers have become increasingly removed from the genetic resources upon which they depend. Consolidation of the seed industry, the rush to patent varieties, and recent technological developments all result in a narrowing of the genetic base on which agriculture stands.
Gardeners have been affected, too. Over two-thirds of the nearly 5,000 nonhybrid vegetables varieties offered in 1984 seed catalogs were dropped by 1994. Less than 10% of the seed companies in the world were responsible for over 63% of the varieties offered in 1997. As seed companies are lost, traditional and heirloom varieties of crops are lost— along with thousands of years of breeding effort.
National and international efforts to save seed and other genetic resources are hampered by insufficient funding and by political and economic barriers to information sharing.
Private efforts often lack the guidelines for maintaining populations and reproducing true seed.
Of the world’s estimated two million plants, the U.S. genetic repository, the National Plant Germplasm System, has approximately 450,000 varieties of plants in storage—many at risk. The NPGS lacks sufficient diversity for almost half of the major crops to reduce crop vulnerability. Much of the collection is insufficiently characterized.
Patenting plants threatens our continued access to agricultural resources, as it obliges farmers to pay royalties on every generation of seed; as breeders no longer have free access to genetic resources to develop new varieties; and as consumers end up paying higher prices for food and medicine. To "publish" a variety bars the patenting of that plant. Describing or characterizing a variety and publishing that description in a catalog or on the internet goes a long way toward locking that variety into the public domain.
The FCGP is a three-year project to assemble a farmer-owned seed cooperative. Participants in the effort will learn how to work with the U.S. repository of seeds (the National Plant Germplasm System) and other seed resources; how to characterize or describe varieties; how to grow true seeds; and how to develop plant varieties for preservation and sale. >From the windowbox growing condominium dweller to the production farmer, the FCGP is open to everyone. Gardeners who want to help characterize plants can participate; growers can reproduce seeds and make them available for sale in a cooperative marketing effort. The FCGP has three principles:
In addition to facilitating trialing, development and distribution of seed varieties, the FCGP will familiarize growers with seed resources, the art of seed growing and the business of cooperative development.
For more information, contact the Farmer Cooperative Genome Project, Oregon Tilth Research and Education, 30848 Maple Dr., Junction City OR 97448; Tel. 540-998-3069; email@example.com; the contact person is J.J. Haapala.
Twelve female volunteers, ages 34 to 84, consumed a typical Western diet in their own homes for four weeks. They could eat all of the white bread, pasta, pastry, snack foods, convenience foods, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products they wanted; but they could eat no more than two servings a day of fruits and vegetables, avoiding leafy green and yellow varieties altogether. They switch from that diet to a plant-rich diet for the next four weeks. At least six servings of green and yellow fruits and vegetables were eaten a day; refined products and "designer" foods, such as reduced-calorie and fat-free products, were off limits; white bread was replaced by whole-grain bread, and many other whole grains and legumes were consumed as volunteers desired. In addition, they ate 2 tablespoons each of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and sesame oil (tahini); a tablespoon of wheat germ oil for cooking or dressing foods; and three 1.5-ounce boxes of raisins from Sun Maid Growers (which funded the study). Eggs were allowed but meat, fish and poultry were limited to 3 ounces per week. No fried foods were eaten, and dairy products had to have 1% fat or less. A cup of ginger tea and two cups of green tea were consumed each day.
Cholesterol levels, which were high to begin with, dropped on the plant-rich diet, and "the diet appears to reduce cholesterol oxidation," according to Gene A. Spiller, one of the researchers involved in the study. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to artery damage.
The volunteers’ antioxidant defenses dropped, too. A copper-containing enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which protects delicate cell parts against oxidation, decreased by two-thirds. The selenium-containing antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, dropped by one-third. "Apparently, the volunteers’ metabolism didn’t need as much enzyme activity because the plant-based diet was rich in phytochemicals," says Leslie M.
Klevay of the Agricultural Research Service Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota. Phytochemicals are the components in plant foods that appear to promote health throughout the life cycle. Many phytochemicals, including certain vitamins and minerals, are excellent antioxidants.
So far, research on phytochemicals has focused mostly on one compound or on a small group of compounds, but epidemiological evidence of health benefits comes from diets rich in fruits and vegetables—not from individual compounds. Nutrition researchers can’t say which phytochemicals are important; they probably work together.
"This study, using mixed diets, is a nice way to approach the question," says Klevay.
Source: "Plant-Rich Diets Let You Relax Your Defenses," by Judy McBride, Agricultural Research, Oct. 1998; Leslie M. Klevay is at the USDA-ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, PO Box 9034, University Station, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9034; phone 701-795-8454; fax 701-795-8395; firstname.lastname@example.org; Gene A. Spiller is at SPHERA Foundation, PO Box 338, Los Altos, CA 94023; phone 650-941-7251; fax 650-948-8540; e-mail email@example.com.
The benefits of green and black tea are increasingly understood, according to a column by Clair Wood in the Bangor Daily News. Regularly consuming the drinks may lower the risk of heart disease and of some tobacco- and nutrition-related cancers, such as precancerous oral lesions and cancer of the digestive tract. For example, when rats were treated with heterocyclic amines—potent mutagens that form when meat is cooked and that cause colon tumors in experimental animals—and were then given extracts of green or black tea, they had fewer colon tumors than control rats. The decrease in risk from digestive tract cancer comes from a preliminary epidemiological study on humans.
These teas are known to be rich in antioxidants, which counter the damage done when free radicals oxidize cell components. One cup of strong, black tea can provide the same amount of antioxidants as a "generous serving of green vegetables," according to one study cited by Wood. While phenols were the antioxidants thought to be responsible for the health effects of black tea, flavonoids in green tea seem to help prevent heart disease, since these flavonoids have lowered LDL cholesterol in lab animals.
Source: "More benefits of tea coming to light each day," by Clair Wood, Bangor Daily News, Oct. 19, 1998.
A new era in Portland’s rich food history began in October with the opening of the city’s new, year-round, fresh food hall. "The people of Maine can feel immensely proud of this new landmark building, which offers us Maine’s best foods fresh from the farmers and food producers who grow them," said Owen Wells, president of August Corporation and Libra Foundation, at the opening of the market. Development of the building, which cost over $6 million, was funded by the generous contribution of the late philanthropist Elizabeth B. Noyce.
The Portland Public Market reestablishes the tradition of indoor public markets in Portland. From 1825 to 1882, a market hall stood at the center of town, at the site of what is now Monument Square, one-half block from the new Public Market. Since the turn of the century, an outdoor farmers’ market has operated continuously. The seasonal farmers’ market will remain at its current location at Monument Square, and additional farmers will be invited to set up on Preble Street, outside the Market building.
Inside the new market building, 22 locally owned businesses sell a wide range of fresh food products from Maine, including natural beef, free-range poultry, fresh and smoked seafood, produce, farm fresh milk, American bison, soups, fresh baked breads, pies and cheesecakes, fresh-squeezed juices, specialty bottled products, and flowers.Stone Soup Foods features not just hot and cold soups but stock, dried beans, grains and soup mixes to make your own soup—and culinary training and employment opportunities for clients of the Preble Street Resource Center. A year-round selection of imported food rounds out an enticing collection of products for shoppers’ convenience.
In addition to fresh products, several vendors prepare foods to eat on the premises or to take home. Fresh soups, rotisserie chicken, German meats, fresh bread, aged cheese and delicious desserts can be enjoyed in the seating area on the mezzanine or outside in the tree-shaded plaza. A seafood cafe features steamed mussels, crab cakes, lobster dishes and more.
The Market is a place to meet and eat—and to be entertained. Throughout the year, festivals and events will highlight local harvests and celebrate Maine’s bounty.
Daystalls at the market provide an opportunity for Maine farmers and food producers to sell their products within the new Public Market on a short-term basis. Products sold by daystall vendors are meant to complement the other fresh foods and flowers sold by the permanent Market tenants, thereby offering customers the best of what’s grown or made in Maine. Spaces are available on a daily basis, year-round.
The market is open year-round, seven days per week, although Monday is an optional day for vendors to open. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Public Market Garage offers free indoor parking via Maine’s first elevated skybridge.
Vendors who are interested in selling at the Market can call the management office at 207-228-2000. The Market director is Ted Spitzer of Market Ventures, Inc., or Portland --co-author, with Hilary Baum, of Public Markets and Community Revitalization (Urban Land Institute, 1995).