Pasturing Alternative Forages at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasture walk at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasture walk at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasturing Alternative Forages was held on Wednesday August 19th, 2015 at Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, NY. Paul and Maureen Knapp hosted the field day and Organic Valley sponsored the event, providing lunch for the group.  We were fortunate to have the rain hold off for the day and to have a very large tent to escape the heat of August.

It is always a pleasure to visit Paul and Maureen Knapp’s farm nestled in the valley of Cortland County.  Paul and Maureen have been long-time NOFA-NY members and have been certified organic since 2000.  They manage a diverse farm business growing poultry, hogs and strawberries as well as managing a dairy herd of 50 milkers.  Their farm has a rich history with its beginnings as part of the cabbage industry growing for a sauerkraut processing facility next door to the farm, which has since become an equipment company.  Paul and Maureen are excellent farmers who are able to adapt to changing dynamics within their farm.  They maintain a beautiful farm and are a fine example of progressive organic dairy farmers. Uniquely, Paul’s experience growing cabbage has helped him to understand and manage growing brassicas for alternative forages.

grazed turnips

grazed turnips

The event began with a round of introductions of presenters and attendees which included a variety of folks from bovine to sheep farmers, new farm owners and seed sales representatives.  Paul spoke about how he began planting alternative forages to help mitigate the summer slump in pasture rotation. Paul now utilizes his alternative pastures including kale, turnip, radish and Sorghum Sudan grass to maintain production and components during the entire grazing season. Paul has also used buckwheat, triticale & peas as alternate forages in the past. We walked out and viewed the different test plots of brassicas to compare how they grew and how the animals grazed them.  Paul chose to graze his animals for 2 hours on an every other day basis to allow the forages time for regrowth and to not overwhelm the cows ration.  Paul balances the alternative forages with perennial pasture consisting mostly of orchard grass and white clover with some red clover.

Paul Knapp discusses alternative forages to the group

Paul Knapp discusses alternative forages to the group

Once we viewed the most recently grazed plots and plots with regrowth, we ventured back to our shady tent for a great lunch provided by Organic Valley.  After everyone’s belly was full we headed back out to view the sorghum sudan grass pasture. Many of the attending farmers shared their experiences pasturing alternative forages, what has worked for them and the results they have seen. There was a discussion on how BMR Sorghum thrives in hot weather and the brassicas thrive during the cooler weather.  By being able to rotate during the season they can be used to mitigate the risk of low pasture yields with varying weather at different times of the summer.  Paul stated how field days like this are great for building a farmers tool box; everyone can take home a few things that will help them in their operation down the road. Following an interesting discussion we had the pleasure to see a dry run of the Soil Health Trailer that Fay Benson and his team brought to the event.  The National Grazinglands Coalition’s Soil Health Trailer is equipped to measure and demonstrate vital physical, chemical, and biological components of soil health. When in full working mode workshop participants use penetrometers to measure soil compaction, and see a demonstration of the Active Carbon test that measures how much food the soil contains for the biological organisms that support soil health.

We are grateful to Fay for bringing the trailer and talking about what it is capable of, to Paul for sharing his years of experience and to Tim Darbishire for sharing his knowledge on forage options, seeding & maintaining a stand and rotations.  We are very pleased with the program and thankful to Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative for their support.


Find out How Your Representative Voted on HR 1599: The Dark Act on GMO Labeling, And More

dark act

On July 23 the House of Representatives passed The so-called “DARK” (“Denying Americans the Right to Know”) Act, or HR 1599 (official name: “the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”) –– the bill that would preempt state and local authority to label and regulate genetically engineered (GE) foods –. This bill would prohibit mandatory GE labeling (federal and state) and would continue to allow use of the term “natural” on foods containing GE organisms.

But the DARK Act is not law yet, and it is time for everyone to get active to make sure that it never is.

Remember your government class in high school? The next step for this bill is the Senate, and then, if passed in the Senate with any different provisions, will have to go to a House/Senate Conference Committee, and back again to both houses. Finally, the President must sign the bill.

All those steps are opportunities for grassroots action to take hold. Your voice is needed now! Sign petitions, send letters, and remember that your elected officials work for you! Hold them accountable.

The DARK Act could undo over 130 existing statutes, regulations and ordinances in 43 states at the state and municipal level – including New York, where a NY GMO Labeling bill is still working its way through the State Legislature – as well as Vermont’s first-ever state labeling bill due to go into effect in July 2016. It would replace mandatory labeling with “voluntary” labeling, which has actually been in place at FDA for the past 14 years – during which time NO companies have used this volunteer labeling system.

While poll after poll shows that 90% of Americans want GE foods labeled, the vote in the House once again highlighted the power and money of big food and big Ag in Congress. Food/Grocery, chemical and seed companies not only contribute to the campaign war chests of both sides of the aisle, they have a very effective PR campaign that mis-characterizes GMO Label advocates as anti-science, and falsely claims that labeling will cause food prices to rise.   So the vote in the House wasn’t unexpected.

But Thanks to the Work of NOFA-NY members (and all New Yorkers) acting on several NOFA and national alerts, the New York congressional delegation responded favorably – see the vote tally below.  Of 27 New York State congress members, 19 voted NO to the DARK Act!   Keep it up New York!

Your Congress member didn’t vote the right way? Continue to write and call them, and tell them why you want to see GE Labeling. And watch for news from NOFA-NY for continued information about this bill and about the New York State Labeling Bill’s progress.

Keep up the fight! – Watch for NOFA-NY Alerts for the right time to tell your state Senate and Assembly Members as well as your federal Senators, Congressman, and the President that you want Labeling of GE Foods. 


Who’s YOUR Congressperson? Look It Up

District No. Representative Vote on HR 1599

[A YES vote = A vote against GMO Labeling]

1 Lee Zeldin No
2 Peter T. King Yes
3 Steve Israel didn’t vote
4 Kathleen Rice No
5 Gregory Meeks No
6 Grace Meng No
7 Nydia Velázquez No
8 Hakeem Jeffries No
9 Yvette Clarke No
10 Jerrold Nadler No
11 Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. Yes
12 Carolyn Maloney No
13 Charles Rangel No
14 Joseph Crowley No
15 José E. Serrano No
16 Eliot Engel No
17 Nita Lowey No
18 Sean Patrick Maloney No
19 Chris Gibson No
20 Paul D. Tonko No
21 Elise Stefanik Yes
22 Richard L. Hanna Yes
23 Tom Reed Yes
24 John Katko Yes
25 Louise Slaughter No
26 Brian Higgins No
27 Chris Collins Yes

Because corn and soybeans are the most widely planted genetically modified crops in the US, it’s not surprising that you’d find GMO corn in tortilla chips or GMO soy in some meat substitutes. But those genetically engineered ingredients also pop up in places you might not expect. Some spices and seasoning mixes contain GMO corn and soy. And soft-drink ingredients that might be derived from genetically modified corn include not only corn syrup but also the artificial sweetener aspartame, glucose, citric acid, and colorings such as beta-carotene and riboflavin. [Consumer Reports March 2015].