September Book Reviews and Editorials
The Garden Parade Coloring Book and Sewing Instructions
Illustrated by Beedy Parker, Toki Oshima, Genny Monks Keller, Leane Morin Boynton and Kristen Salvatore
copyright 1996 Common Ground Country Fair and the artists
$3 at the Fair or $3 plus $3 postage & handling from MOFGA, PO Box 2176, Augusta, ME 04338-2176
Each page of this charmingly illustrated coloring book features one or more costumes from the Common Ground Country Fair’s Children’s Garden Parade. Borders of stars, geometric designs and botanical illustrations make each page a work of art, even before it’s colored! General instructions for constructing the costumes from chicken wire, "bubble packaging," duct tape and other materials are given, along with specific sewing instructions for each costume.
Not only is this book entertaining, it also educates children about the importance of gardening organically, with its beetle holding a sign that reads, "No Sprays on Me"; a girl holding a globe in hand and a sign saying "Love Your Mother" in the other; a frog with a sign that proclaims, "Gardens are Good", and more. One of the first pictures features a banner declaring that "We All Live In The Garden," and the book ends with a poem called "Our Garden is Full of All Creatures."
The book has a whimsical nature too, with two chickens holding wings and dancing; a monarch butterfly stopping to tie his shoe; a potato that looks at you with many eyes.
Five very talented artists have created a one-of-a-kind coloring/sewing book that is appropriate for children of all ages. My daughter and I give it four thumbs up!
Dynamic Farmers’ Marketing
by Jeff Ishee
130 pages, paper
$14.95 plus $2.50 shipping & handling (Virginia residents add $ .67 sales
Bittersweet Farmstead, PO Box 52, Middlebrook, VA 24459
Dynamic Farmers’ Marketing is an essential book for anyone who wants to or is selling at a farmers’ market or is thinking of organizing a farmers’ market. I know of no other publication that, in one place, tells producers, vendors, market managers and new market organizers how to have a successful and dynamic farmers’ market.
Ishee writes from first-hand experience, and he writes in a warm and easily read manner.
He took notes and kept journals as he worked at farmers’ markets. He recorded customers’ buying habits, the most profitable and consistent items that farmers were selling, and how vendors effectively displayed their products. He reports on his own experiences and on those of farmers’ markets across the country, which he researched.
Ishee learned that during the two years from 1994 to 1996, a 40% increase in the number of public farmers’ markets occurred in the United States, so that by ‘96 there were 2,200 markets with an average of about 30 vendors each. He visited many of these and spent countless hours on the phone learning about others. "As far as I know," he says, "this is the only book currently available that is dedicated to the sole topic of selling farm products via the local farmers’ market. Others may have a chapter or two about the subject, but I have dedicated the entire book to both the vendor’s success and the efficient organization of a public farmers’ market. Also included is an appendix of actual testimonials from the ‘front lines’ of the marketplace, an appendix of sample market rules, and yet another appendix of assorted stories and sample news releases concerning our own market here in the Shenandoah Valley." Those stories and news releases are very well written and should give market participants ideas about publicizing their local markets without (or in addition to) paying for advertising. I rarely see feature articles about farmers’ market vendors in local papers, yet markets are teeming with great stories, as Ishee illustrates.
Regarding sales techniques at the market, you might think everything possible had been written about this subject in Extension publications and other books. Yet I found many new ideas in Ishee’s book. For example: "If you have fresh baked goods from your farm, and a crop of leaf lettuce on hand, you are in business. Place your early tomatoes between a loaf of sourdough bread and a basket of lettuce. Then place a small hand-written sign next to the display that reads, ‘Tomato sandwich for lunch?’ Stand back and prepare to man the cash box! It will be self-evident that the power of suggestion is in fact truly powerful."
In a section about the value of selling fresh eggs at markets, Ishee says, "If the average consumer had any idea of how commercial laying flocks are managed, believe me, you’d have more business at the farmers’ market than you could handle." He describes the horrendous conditions under which laying hens are kept in factory farms, which you would see "if you were allowed to tour a commercial laying house..." He advises, "Make sure you take only fresh, clean eggs to the market, and be passionate about how your eggs are superior to typical supermarket eggs. Take pictures of your hens in the nest box and display the framed photographs at your market stall. Help the customer connect!" On one whole page of Dynamic Farmers’ Marketing, Ishee has reproduced a handout that he gives to his customers at the market. Entitled, "Why These Farm-Fresh Eggs are Superior," it tells what his hens do not receive (medicated feed, crowded conditions, etc.) and how they are raised. This would be a good model for others to copy. Ishee has also grabbed shoppers’ attention by placing a handwritten sign next to his eggs. The 4" x 6" beige card with red lettering says: ‘EGGS LAID BY HENS THAT LEAD A NICE QUIET LIFE.’ "It never failed to cause a smile on potential customers’ faces when they saw that little sign," he says.
He suggests a similar approach for selling sweet potatoes. ‘SWEET POTATOES PROMOTE GOOD HEALTH,’ your sign could say. "How do sweet potatoes promote good health?" your customers will ask. You’ll cite research by the Center for Science in the Public Interest showing that the sweet potato is the most nutritious vegetable, getting a score more than twice the next highest vegetable. After citing the concentrations of vitamins A and C and beta-carotene, you can hand them a card with your favorite recipe on it, tell them that "it’s low fat, delicious, takes only 10 minutes of preparation time, and calls for 4 pounds of sweet potatoes. You know, your friends that are health-conscious like you might enjoy this recipe also... Here—let me get a bag for you. Do you think 4 pounds will be enough to last until next week’s market?"
Ishee even talks about wearing the right kind of clothing to markets: clean jeans, a cotton shirt and a baseball cap, or overalls, which "have the image of ‘farmer’ written all over them." He advises against certain footwear: "Wear your old boots or garden shoes, and not brand new, slick, white basketball high tops. Somehow, Reebok and Nike do not symbolize fresh and local farm products. Old leather boots do."
This book is full of gems, so you must get it and read it yourself and share it with other vendors in your market. I will close with one of my favorite quotes from Ishee’s book, which he found on the Internet, which was citing Bernard Rudofsky’s Streets for People:
A Primer for Americans (Doubleday, N.Y., 1969): "A good start for making a town’s acquaintance is to visit its morning markets, and I do not mean market halls but the temporary kind that consists of collapsible stalls put up for a few hours in a street or a square. Disagreeable as shopping in inclement weather may be to people addicted to the indoors, open-air markets are more than a match for hermetic stores. There is nothing like fresh air and daylight; the knowledgeable shopper prefers the least tidy street market to the air-conditioned morgue of a supermarket."
Dynamic Farmers’ Marketing is in the MOFGA library.
Test Your Soil With Plants!
by John Beeby
$12.50 from Ecology Action, 5798 Ridgewood Rd., Willits CA 95490
This is a book to order now and study over the winter, for although it’s only 91 pages long, it’s dense with information that should be quite helpful in understanding your soil, its limitations, its possibilities, and how to achieve those possibilities.
Divided into three parts, the first discusses how wild plants can be used to determine the characteristics of a soil. Beeby has organized a "Wild Plant Indicator Chart" that takes up 16 pages and is amazingly detailed. From it you can find out what rough pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) means regarding the structure of a soil and its possible utilization; what common burdock (Arctium minus) means relative to soil pH, calcium, phosphorus and aluminum concentrations; what common horsetail (Equisetum arvense) tells about a soil’s history, moisture, drainage and texture.
Combine this information with that in Part II about cultivated plants, and you are on your way to Part III—Improvement of Soil Conditions. If wild and cultivated plants suggest that you need to add potassium but not nitrogen and phosphorus, you can use Beeby’s charts to find out how to amend the soil organically—how much of which materials to add each year, when to add them, and more.
In the Foreword to the book, John Jeavons writes, "John Beeby has condensed the wisdom, skill and science from a five-foot pile of hard-to-find publications into Test Your Soil With Plants. Now we can begin to rediscover this very practical art without the use of expensive soil tests." This is not a simple art, and this book is an excellent way to begin to learn it. One limitation of the book is the lack of visual aids, which are essential in being able to spot nutrient deficiencies or excesses. Now that color copiers and scanners for computers are so readily available, perhaps a photographic insert of common nutrient problems could be included in future editions.
A copy of Test Your Soil With Plants! is available in the MOFGA library.
The Organic Pages
$44.95 plus $6.00 shipping and handling from
Organic Trade Association, PO Box 1078, Greenfield MA 01302;
Tel. 413-774-7511; fax 413-774-6432; email@example.com; web www.ota.com First copy free to OTA members.
The Organic Pages, 1998 North American Resource Directory, provides comprehensive contact information for over 770 OTA members as well as listings for over 420 certified organic farms in North America. It contains over 300 pages of detailed organic industry information, including listings of shippers, retailers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, farm input suppliers, brokers, consultants, importers, exporters, restaurants, distributors, manufacturers, suppliers of ingredients, and others involved in producing or selling organic products. Extensive indexes are arranged by industry sector, products and business activity. Web sites, e-mail addresses and mail order opportunities are listed for consumers.
The Organic Trade Association is the business association representing the organic industry in the United States and Canada.
A copy of The Organic Pages is available in the MOFGA library.
Celebration and Vigilance
Fifteen years ago, I was being lectured by my department chairman at a Land Grant University that I must not use the word ‘organic’ in reference to agriculture, or even to gardening, and that I had a responsibility to recommend synthetic chemicals. After the third lecture, I decided to hit the road before they threw me out. This was a trying time for me. If only I could have looked into a crystal ball and seen...
Unity. MOFGA’s permanent site. A gorgeous, environmentally friendly office building and exhibition hall. An extensive organic planting of roses. Organic roses? Unheard of two decades ago... An heirloom orchard in the making. A weekend of healthful, delicious food, all prepared from ingredients raised by people with a love for the land, long-term. A weekend? More than that now. So many MOFGA events are accompanied by such wonderful food, and so many more events are being planned, now that the permanent site is a reality.
I am tempted to say that the permanent site has brought MOFGA to a new level, one that has taken on a "life of its own" as plantings, plans and people come together. A couple of years ago, I thought a "MOFGA Village" would be an exciting goal for this organization. The steps that the organization has taken since then have, in fact, created a synergy that, I believe, is leading to such a village. This creation has not, of course, come about through some "life of its own," but through the determination of a large group of idealists. For someone like me, however, who has been involved primarily from the sidelines, the 1998 Common Ground Country Fair seems like the sudden birth of a great new entity. No crystal ball could ever have foretold such a wonder.
At the same time that we celebrate MOFGA’s emergence into a new era, we have reason to be even more vigilant than ever. Our culture as a whole seems to have grasped, finally, the dangers of pesticides. Even mainstream farmers are increasingly looking for alternatives to toxic pesticides and at ways to farm sustainably. While the pro-pesticide wave has crashed and shows signs of losing its momentum, however, a much more frightening wave is approaching in its wake. A tsunami, in fact.
That tsunami is the oncoming wave of genetically engineered crops—crops that have had their genes reversed or otherwise manipulated, or that have had genes from animals, bacteria, viruses or other organisms inserted into them. Many foods on the market today contain ingredients from genetically engineered crops, and chances are excellent that you’ve eaten some genetically engineered food, unless you eat exclusively certified organic foods or foods that you know haven’t been genetically manipulated.
If you are the average shopper, you may have come across genetically engineered tomatoes, potatoes, corn (think of all the products that use corn syrup...), soy (heavily used in processed foods; genetically altered soy has been found in many infant formulas, including Carnation Alsoy, Similac Neocare, Isomil and Enfamil Prosobee; what are we doing to our babies?), yellow squash, canola and cottonseed oil (in most processed foods) and papaya. A list of crops that have been approved, await approval or are under development runs from abalone to wheat, with at least 38 crops in between. Catfish.
Cheesemaking enzymes. Kiwis (the fruits). Prawns. Salmon. Watermelons.
None of these crops or food products is labeled as genetically engineered, of course, because of the excessive and immoral influence that biotech companies have on governments, especially in the United States. Many of them are coming on the market with little or no oversight or regulation from the government. All you can do to avoid these foods at this point is buy certified organic foods or grow your own. Got a craving for corn chips, tofu burgers, bacon substitutes, ice cream or chocolate? Watch out!
Allergic to bananas or other foods? Watch out! Think our country’s freedom of religion means you’ll be warned when genes from swine are inserted into your favorite food?
Forget it! Think crops that have been engineered to resist herbicides might spread this trait to weedy relatives and pose a threat to the environment? Maybe we’ll look back with fondness on kudzu...
You don’t need a crystal ball to see that this experiment that multinational corporations are performing on citizens without their approval could lead to disaster(s). You may need guidance regarding what to do about the experiment. In addition to eating organic foods, you can ask your grocer which foods have engineered ingredients in them. Call the 800-numbers on food packages and ask company reps if their products have engineered ingredients. Keep asking questions. Keep demanding labeling. Threaten boycotts. Organize boycotts! If a critical mass speaks up, change will occur.
You can learn more about the biotech bomb that is hovering over our collective heads at MOFGA’s Public Policy Teach-In, starring Brian Tokar, CR Lawn and Sharon Tisher, at the Common Ground Fair on Saturday from 1 to 3 in the YEZ Tent. If you eat food or live in an ecosystem, this is the one event at Common Ground that you should not miss this year.