Thursday, December 31, 2015

On change

All this past year, as I have told people my story of growing up in the North Country, graduating from St. Lawrence University, and then moving away, before finally returning 35 years later, they have asked, "What has changed?"

It is an interesting question to think about, for much has changed.

The campuses have changed - major new buildings at SLU, whole new programs at Clarkson, and SUNY Canton?  Well, that was two-year Canton ATC when I left!

Dairy farming has changed.  150 cows was a huge farm back in the 70's.  Today a farm ten times that size isn't even among the biggest!  I learned that there are fewer farms, but more cows, than when I left!

The Neighborhood Centers were just getting started back then, in fact, one of my aunt's was one of the founders of the Gouverneur Neighborhood Center.  I'm glad to see they are still here and still lending a helping hand when needed.  I was surprised to see how many free will dinners and other food pantries have sprung up around the county, though.  This is a testament to the job losses the County has seen and the growing poverty that has resulted.

School systems have changed - consolidations meaning long bus rides for some kids and empty school buildings in some communities.  And the number of kids eligible for a free lunch at school has grown - today it's at 51% of our children!

I had the sense that the winter's had changed and gotten milder - but then I moved back in January of 2015 and that did not seem to be true!  But December of 2015 suggests that maybe it is, after all!

On the other hand, a lot has stayed the same - I came back to Canton and saw Josie's and Sergi's right next to each other just like always, the American Theater still going strong, the Hoot Owl around the corner, and a very similar feel to the place where I spent my four college years!

Yes, much has changed in my 35 years away. 

But what has not changed is the rich farmland and the resilient and caring people of St. Lawrence County.  No one here should go hungry and I'm glad to be back here and on the team trying to make it so!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Different, but the same!

Some reflections from Gloria...

As most of you now, I worked in the food policy and anti-hunger field for the last thirty years in the Hartford, Connecticut area.  I'm marking my one-year anniversary at GardenShare in a few more days.  This anniversary has caused some reflection on  my experiences in this work over the years and what is different or similar about doing the work in St. Lawrence County rather than a more urban-suburban setting.

Last fall, while still in Connecticut, but after announcing my planned departure, I started the learning curve about the situation in St. Lawrence County.  And as I shared what I was learning with friends, coworkers, and community members in Hartford, they were astounded.  20% poverty rate in St. Lawrence County.  The only County with a significantly higher poverty rate is Bronx County.  And more than half of the children in the County qualify for a free lunch in school.  The City of Hartford has similar rates of poverty, but Hartford County and the State of Connecticut certainly do not!  So, in some ways the same, but in some ways different.

Some other thoughts on what's the same and what's different...

Transportation and access to large grocery stores - In Connecticut, the poorest urban neighborhoods tended not to have any supermarkets, forcing people to either shop in the higher price convenience stores, take a bus to the store (challenging to get home on the bus with groceries) or use some of their grocery money for taxis.  On returning to St. Lawrence County, where the access issue is the opposite - the larger villages have supermarkets, but people in outlying areas may have a challenge - I was pleased to see how the public transit with the NYSARC bus system has improved the situation.  But getting to the store for people without a car can still be a challenge.  I've also noted a difference in the convenience stores here compared to the city, in that those stores here tend to have more selection and some healthier choices, including some produce.

Programs to help children - In Connecticut, we were working hard to ensure that all children who were eligible received a free breakfast at school and a free lunch during the summer.  While we had made progress, when I left that state,  only 47% of the kids eligible for a free breakfast at school were actually getting that breakfast and only 25% of them were getting a meal in the summer.  These programs are even harder to run in remote and rural places like St. Lawrence County and our situation looks worse.   Only 41% of the children in the county who are eligible for it receive a free breakfast at school and only 13% of those eligible receive a meal in the summer.

Working poor - Data about families who have income above the limits for programs like SNAP and free school meals but are still food insecure tells us that this is a bigger problem in Connecticut, with 50% of the food insecure families in this situation.  In St. Lawrence County, 34% of our food insecure household have incomes too high for public assistance.  This is primarily about the cost of living, which is very high in Connecticut, meaning a higher income is required to cover basic living expenses.  In either case, whether it's a third or a half of the households, it's a problem that people who are working cannot put food on the table and cannot get help to do so!

Strategies families use to get food - I've seen research for both the City of Hartford and for St. Lawrence County indicating that low-income families use more strategies to get food.  Most of us use two or three strategies - the grocery store, a restaurant, maybe we grow some of our own.  Low-income families will use strategies like dropping in on a friend hoping to get fed or visiting a soup kitchen or food pantry.  Some of the strategies I saw families using in Hartford are the same here and some are different.  While St. Lawrence County families frequently name hunting or foraging as ways to get food, there is little of either going on in Hartford!

Saying all of this reminds me so much of what I learned over the years and repeated over and over in my work in Hartford.

Hunger is a complex problem that will require a variety of strategies to find a solution.  Building bigger food pantries or opening more free will dinners won't solve the problem.  As a community, we need to  find a variety of ways to attack this problem.

GardenShare's part of the solution is about connecting local people in need with fresh, healthy, locally grown food.  By helping low-income families buy CSA shares and SNAP recipients use the farmers markets, we are making a difference.  I hope we can count on you to be there and part of the solution as we explore some other strategies to tackle the problem of hunger in our midst. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Nearly half of U.S. children—between 33 million and 36.5 million—have at least one parent with a criminal record. Having a criminal record can affect the family and children not just while a parent is in prison but for years after.

   Income. Parents with criminal records have lower earning potential, as they often face major obstacles to securing employment and receiving public assistance.
   Savings and assets. Mounting criminal justice debts and unaffordable child support arrears severely limit families’ ability to save for the future and can trap them in a cycle of debt.
   Education.  Parents with criminal records face barriers to education and training opportunities that would increase their chances of finding well-paying jobs and better equip them to support their families.
   Housing. Barriers to public as well as private housing for parents with criminal records can lead to housing instability and make family reunification difficult if not impossible.
   Family strength and stability. Financial and emotional stressors associated with parental criminal records often pose challenges in maintaining healthy relationships and family stability.

Source: Center for American Progress, 12/10/15, Criminal Consequences

Monday, December 28, 2015

Grants for farmers just starting out

New Farmers Grant Program: Request for
Deadline--January 22, 2016
The purpose of New Farmers Grant Program is to support beginning farmers who have chosen farming as a career and who materially and substantially participate in the production of an agricultural product on their farm. These grants will help farmers improve profitability resulting in the growth of agribusiness and tax revenues within the state.

The New York State New Farmers Grant Fund will help farmers improve farm profitability through one or more of the following goals: 
  • Expanding agricultural production, diversifying agricultural production and/or extending the agricultural season
  • Advancing innovative agricultural techniques that increase sustainable practices such as organic farming, food safety, reduction of farm waste and/or water use
  • Creating or expanding partnerships with other entities such as farm operations, institutions or regional food-hubs for processing, selling and/or distributing agricultural products. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Documentary: In Defense of Food - premieres Dec. 30 on PBS

Join author Michael Pollan on a fascinating journey to answer the question: What should I eat to be healthy? Busting myths and misconceptions, In Defense of Food reveals how common sense and old-fashioned wisdom can help us rediscover the pleasures of eating and at the same time reduce our risks of falling victim to diet-related diseases. In Defense of Food premieres Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, 9pm ET on PBS. The film  will be accompanied by a comprehensive education program for middle school students created by the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education and Policy at the Teachers College, Columbia University. In addition, an extensive outreach program has been designed to help food and health organizations and community groups use the film to spark deeper engagement and action in support of healthier homes, schools and communities. Learn more here

Saturday, December 26, 2015

TSC School Garden Grant Now Available!

An exciting new opportunity is now available for NYS elementary teachers. Tractor Supply Company is launching "Dig It"-- a school garden curriculum. If you would like to start a school garden, revitalize an already existing garden, or expand your garden program, applications are currently being accepted for classroom programs to begin in February 2016.

The program includes a comprehensive curriculum guide developed by National Agriculture in the Classroom, as well as a $500 TSC gift card to purchase the items needed for the school garden.

For more information or to apply for this great opportunity, visit our website!

Applications are due January 1, 2016.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Anniversaries and holiday wishes!

It's Christmas Eve 2015, my 59th birthday, and the one year anniversary of my last day of work at Foodshare, after 30 years and 5 months in the position!

Last Christmas Eve, I was working, wrapping up final details and preparing for my move to the North Country.  This year, at GardenShare, Christmas Eve is a holiday for our employees and so, for the first time in many years, I have the day off without needing to use a vacation day!  But I am using the day to start a brief vacation and a visit to one of my children.

I've been thinking a lot about this upcoming one year anniversary at GardenShare.  The year has been exciting, challenging, frustrating, and I'm sure I could think of a dozen other ways to describe it.

But, there has never been a moment of doubt but that this was the right decision and the right place at the right time for me!

Look for some more thoughts on this first year in the coming week.

But right now, I wanted to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!   Thank you for all of your support this past year.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) has introduced a comprehensive bill to address food waste from the farm to table. The bill contains nearly two dozen provisions aimed at curbing food waste across the entire economy, from farm-level waste to food that is wasted at restaurants. At the consumer level, Pingree’s bill would reevaluate the “Best By” labels included on most food products. At the farm level, the bill would support the installation of anaerobic digesters on rural farms to help turn crop waste into energy and encourage composting. Pingree’s bill would also support restaurants, grocery stores, and schools in cutting food waste, by expanding tax credits for grocery stores that want to donate leftover products and establishing an Office of Food Recovery meant to coordinate federal programs to measure and reduce food waste.

Source: Think Progress, 12/14/15,Food Waste

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Several studies cited in the CEA report look at how SNAP families use their benefits over the course of a month. Families tend to use a disproportionate share of their benefits early on, but not to stock up on non-perishables they can use to prepare meals all month long or to buy more pricey foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Apparently they just eat less; their calorie consumption declines as much as 25%, according to one researcher’s estimate. This pattern can have profound effects. One research team found 28% more admissions for low blood sugar during the last week of the month than the first. Two other studies looked at children’s school performance over the monthly benefits cycle. One found higher average math and reading test scores among children whose families had received their SNAP benefits several weeks before the tests, when the kids would have been learning what they were tested on. The other study found a higher rate of disciplinary actions against children from SNAP households than others. Factoring out differences in student characteristics suggests that the end-of-month exhaustion of SNAP benefits causes an 11% increase in disciplinary actions against students in SNAP families. The root of the problem may be found in other research cited in the CEA report: that the Thrifty Food Plan— the basis for determining SNAP benefits — is overly thrifty.

Source: Poverty & Policy, 12/16/15, End-of-Month

Monday, December 21, 2015


By reducing poverty and food insecurity, SNAP can have lasting effects on children’s health and development.  As a recent Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) report describes, research links food insecurity to various negative health outcomes, such as increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.  Living in food-insecure households is also linked with negative behavioral, social, and academic outcomes.  For example, a study examining the national rollout of food stamps in the 1960s and 1970s found that children who had access to SNAP in utero or early childhood had better health in adulthood — including lower rates of stunted growth, heart disease, and obesity — as well as higher rates of high school completion. Another study found that test scores among students in SNAP households are highest for those receiving benefits two to three weeks before the test, suggesting that SNAP can help students learn and prepare for tests.  Short-term academic outcomes, in turn, are linked with longer-term outcomes in education and employment. 

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 12/11/15, Kids Benefit from SNAP

Friday, December 18, 2015


House and Senate leaders have reached agreement on a FY 16 Omnibus Appropriations bill and a Tax Extender package. The tax bill will come to a vote in the House on Thursday (12/17), the spending bill on Friday. The Senate is expected to combine the two bills into a single vote, presumably on Friday. The appropriations bill addresses three food-related issues:

   $6.350 billion for the WIC: This is expected to support the anticipated caseload but falls short of the $6.623 billion in the President’s proposed budget, which was the same amount appropriated last year.
   School Nutrition Standards: The bill maintains the language from prior appropriations legislation that allows waivers of the whole grain requirement and postpones full implementation of the sodium requirement
   $23 million for the summer EBT program: This is $7 million more than the 2015 enacted level. Participation is not limited to certain communities as it was last year.

Reauthorization for the Child Nutrition Act is not included in this bill.  It will probably be considered early next year.

The Tax Extender bill makes permanent the Child Care, Earned Income, and American Opportunity (college expenses) tax credits.

Source: Food Research Action Council, 12/16/15, Food Issues in Tax & Spending Bills; Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 12/16/15, Tax Credits


One in five community college students have gone hungry in the last 30 days, according to a survey of more than 4,300 students at 10 community colleges in New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Also, 13% experienced a form of homelessness in the past year, and more than half were at risk of homelessness. For many students, scholarships and student loans still do not cover housing and food expenses. The College and University Food Bank Alliance helps institutions set up and maintain food pantries, and Scholarship America’s Dreamkeepers supports efforts to provide emergency financial aid. Single Stop helps community college students use all of the possible social benefits programs to which they are entitled. It also counsels them on how to manage their finances.

Source: New York Times, 12/4/15, Hungry College Students

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Canton middle school students promote farm-to-school programs

Students from Canton's McKenney Middle School took part in the 2015 North Country Food Day Youth Summit and are working on a project to bring locally grown food into their school cafeteria.  The students took part in a roundtable with Assemblywoman Addie Russell on farm-to-school programs and here is student Noelle Black's statement to the meeting and the Assemblywoman:

I stand before you today advocating for the availability of locally grown food for my school, and schools across St. Lawrence County.  In terms of cost, nutrition and health, it just makes good sense.
First, in terms of savings, it should be less expensive to deliver and access food that is closer.    It doesn’t seem reasonable that it would be cost-effective to have food shipped (usually driven) across several states or even the country. 
Secondly, in terms of health, the facts speak for themselves. The fresher the food, the higher the quality and nutrition.  A University of California study showed that vegetables lose 15 to 55 percent of vitamin C within a week.  Some spinaches can lose 90 percent of vitamin C within the first 24 hours after harvest.  The longer the food stays in transit, the more nutrients we lose.   It is simple math.  Common sense asks “Would you put crude oil in your sports car?”   “Would you feed your thoroughbred race horse candy corn?” Aren’t people even more important? 
If you put good things in, you will have better performance.  Healthy nutrient rich food goes in students, and better Common Core and Regents scores come out. 
Another advantage to “growing local, eating local” is supporting our community.  The North Country is an economically challenged region, with more and more industries and employers moving companies overseas, or closing their doors.  Alcoa is the most recent company that was threatening our already struggling area.  Thankfully, New York government worked together to reverse their decision and save hundreds of jobs.  
Thank YOU. 
Supporting our local farmers helps their families and their farms.  Let’s keep money in the local economy and in the hands of the people who produced the food instead of those that market, label and distribute it.
Thank you for your time.  

Students compare notes and prepare to speak at the roundtable


As part of Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative, a group of major food retailers promised in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 grocery or convenience stores in and around neighborhoods with no supermarkets by 2016. By their own count, they're far short. Moreover, an Associated Press analysis of SNAP data reveals that the nation's largest chains have since built new supermarkets in only a fraction of the neighborhoods where they're needed most. The nation's top 75 food retailers opened almost 10,300 stores in new locations from 2011 to the first quarter of 2015, 2,434 of which were grocery stores. Take away convenience stores and "dollar stores," which generally don't sell fresh fruits, vegetables or meat, and barely more than 250 of the new supermarkets were in so-called food deserts. These new stores served just 1.4 million of the more than 18 million people the USDA says lived in food deserts as of 2010.

Source: Associated Press, 12/7/15, Food Deserts

(Maybe you think this is only an urban problem, but St. Lawrence County has seven census tracts considered food deserts!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Canton middle school students meet with Addie Russell

Students from Canton's McKenney Middle School took part in the 2015 North Country Food Day Youth Summit and are working on a project to bring locally grown food into their school cafeteria.  The students took part in a roundtable with Assemblywoman Addie Russell on farm-to-school programs and here is a compilation of the students' statements to the meeting and the Assemblywoman:

Farm-to-School Program

          I think that all people here will agree that nutrition is an important part of a person’s life, especially for our youth who are still growing. While our school does offer food with the required nutritional components, it would be great to see more farm fresh, local food in our schools.  If we get more locally grown foods, not only will the food be more appetizing, but it will be healthier.  This will give the students the vitamins and nutrients they need to make them happier and more active.  It will also allow kids to concentrate better, be more active participants in class and earn better grades. 

 We believe serving New York grown foods would help our families and our schools. Let’s use carrots as an example.  We would like to eat carrots grown in our own county and are processed locally.  This would help our local farmers and create jobs in our area, benefitting our local economy.  Our county’s poverty rate is growing and many students in our school come from families that have trouble paying the bills and putting enough good food on the table.  New economic opportunities are desperately needed in our area.  More jobs and healthier food options sound great to us! 

We want locally grown, fresh foods because they taste better and are more nutritious. Carrots grown by our local farmers would look and taste better than the canned carrots we are served now. We believe more students would buy school lunches if there were more colorful, fresh foods on the tray. 

Additionally, we care about the environment!  Our school recently started a Green Team, an environmental club, in which most of us are actively involved.  Carrots grown in our area would have a much smaller carbon footprint than those that are grown in California, for instance, and have to be trucked across the country.  We know that our earth’s atmosphere is falling apart because there is so much carbon dioxide in the environment, and climate change frightens us.  The less our food has to travel, the better for the health of our bodies, our  environment and our economy.

We know there are barriers that are presenting challenges for our school meal programs as well as for local farmers.  The students you see here today are dedicated to improving the quality and nutritional value of the food offered in our school.  We recently participated in the Food Day Youth Summit at SUNY Potsdam with students from across the North Country.  We learned about the impacts of corporate farming,  food insecurity, nutrition and about farm-to-school efforts in our area.  We have been working with the faculty at our school and with our food service director, Bluejay Fenlong, to find ways to encourage healthier food options and choices. 

In talking with Mrs. Fenlong, we understand that there are a number reasons why it’s difficult to get farm fresh food in our school.  For the past few years, she has been able to offer locally grown apples through the first half of the year, but hasn’t been successful in getting local farms to supply the food we need.  She noted the following as challenges that would need to be overcome to make farm-to-school a reality in our district:
    Location-  there is a short growing season and a limited time when foods would be available.
    Farmer interest- she didn’t find that many local farms were interested in producing for the schools
    Cost -  she would have to pay more for locally grown foods
    Communication - there’s not a well developed communication network between the farms and schools
We know there are challenges for farmers too.  Lots of strict and expensive health and safety regulations make it a challenge for the farmers to participate. 

We want to help.  We have thought of some things we, as students, could do to support the Farm-to-School Program.
    Fundraising - Our student organizations such as Student Council and Green Team would love to raise money for special supplies, like food  processing equipment, so fresh local produce could be processed and stored for later use. 
    Education - We plan to encourage healthy choices through taste tests and promotional posters and announcements.
    Getting Involved  - We would advocate for field trips to the farms that produce our food and encourage students to work and volunteer at those farms.  We are much more likely to eat the food when we feel a connection to it.

In closing, by increasing the amount of local foods, we can make lunches healthier and make the environment healthier.  We support the Farm-to-School Program because it can be a very successful program for everyone!  Thank you, Assemblywoman Russell, for inviting us to speak today and  thanks to all of you for taking the time to listen.  


Six percent of the elderly who live at home in the US and in other developed countries are malnourished; the rate doubles among those in nursing homes, where it is 14%, according to a 2010 study. Malnutrition increases older adults’ risk of illness, frailty, and infection. Malnourished people visit the doctor and are admitted to the hospital more often, have longer hospital stays, and recover more slowly from surgery. Not surprisingly, financial hardship is a central cause of elder malnutrition. According to a 2014 report from the AARP Foundation, nearly 9 million older people in the US can’t afford nutritious food. About 25% of low-income adults 65 and older say they’ve reduced the size of their meals or have skipped meals because they didn’t have enough money. Many eligible seniors don’t receive food assistance. The AARP report found that only 13% of elders eligible for SNAP receive it. One way to increase assistance programs’ use might be to inform hospital patients about them when they are discharged. A recent survey found that only 6% of hospitalized elderly people received information about SNAP, and only 3% received information about group meals or meal deliveries to homebound seniors.

Source: WBUR, 11/26/15, Elder Malnutrition

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.

$2.00 a Day:  Living on Almost Nothing in America.
Webinar:  Tuesday, December 22, 2015, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET

A special webinar with authors Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, whose book $2 a Day describes in depth the lives of families living in extreme poverty in America.  $2.00 a Day has been included in the New York Times Book Review list of 100 Notable Books of 2015.  When he reviewed the book in September, respected Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson wrote, “This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what ­Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” achieved in the 1960s — arousing both the nation’s consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens.

Kathy and Luke will be joined by a panel of experts:  people who have lived in such deep poverty.  Their comments and questions – and yours – will be moderated by CHN’s executive director, Deborah Weinstein.
At a time when some are intent on feeding divisiveness and hatred, please join us in this call to conscience.

This webinar is intended to start a conversation - during and after the webinar itself.  You can ask questions during the webinar, and you can also share comments through CHN's blog, Voices for Human Needs.  We'll have a related blog post up soon so you can post your comments there.  We very much want to hear from people who have experienced poverty.  We also hope to hear from service providers and faith and/or community leaders serving low-income people.


House Speaker Paul Ryan is again calling for combining many safety net programs into a mega-block grant to states. Ryan made a similar proposal in 2014. Then, his “Opportunity Grant” proposal would have consolidated 11 programs—from SNAP to housing vouchers, childcare, and the Community Development Block Grant—into a single block grant. He proposed converting SNAP, the nation’s basic food assistance safety net, from an entitlement that responds automatically to increased need into part of a block grant that gives each state fixed funding for the year and, thus, can’t respond in the same way.  This would be a serious problem when need rises, such as during economic downturns or when states or localities experience events such as plant closings. Most of the mega-block grant would be funded with money now going to SNAP and low-income rent assistance.  By providing some people with more services, Ryan’s plan would likely require cutting assistance that helps poor families put food on the table or keep a roof over their head.  And, some of the service programs to which funds would likely be shifted have higher administrative costs than SNAP and rental voucher programs, so less would remain for basic assistance to needy families. 

Source: Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, 12/3/15, Safety Net Block Grant

Monday, December 14, 2015


Toward the end of every month, hospitals in California see a curious uptick in admissions for hypoglycemia, the kind of low blood sugar that can affect diabetics. The pattern, described in a recent study by University of California, San Francisco researchers, is almost entirely driven by low-income patients. The researchers suspect this trend may result from families running out of the food stamps they received as a lump sum at the start of the month. Grocery stores in poor neighborhoods often report a rise in business when food stamps are electronically debited, and hospitals may see the result when they run out. Amid the well-documented long-term effects of food stamps in alleviating hunger and easing poverty, week to week it looks as if the food stamp cycle may also influence hospital admissions, student test scores, and even childhood behavior.

Source: Washington Post, 12/9/15, Running Out of Food Stamps

Sunday, December 13, 2015


One recent Monday morning, Daniel Guhl, manager of a San Jose (CA) soup kitchen that serves roughly 157,000 meals a year, picked up 100 pounds of mac & cheese; 300 pre-made pizzas; and 300 brownies, mini tarts and pastries from Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers where a paltry home game turnout left the venue with more food than it knew what to do with. Since the start of football season, the venue has donated more than 12,000 meals to local charities through a mobile app created by the 18-year old founder of Waste No Food. Local food service providers—convention and banquet centers, corporate cafeterias, sports facilities, and restaurants—log onto the app to report when they have surplus food. The app then pushes out an alert to nonprofit providers who can contact the food source.

Source: San Jose Inside, 12/2/15, Food Waste App

Saturday, December 12, 2015

New short film on food and ag

From the producers of a new short film, "Food for Thought, Food for Life:"

“We want our food fast, convenient and cheap, but at what cost? As farms have become supersized, our environment suffers and so does the quality of our food. Food for Thought, Food for Life explains the downsides of current agribusiness practices, and also introduces us to farmers, chefs, researchers, educators, and advocates who are providing solutions. The film is both poetic and practical; its powerful examination of the connections between our planet and our well-being is accompanied by specific strategies that protect both. With an eye towards a sustainable and abundant future, it offers inspiration for communities that are ready to make a difference.”

This is the trailer for the film.  View the entire 22 minute film here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Nominations for Fresh Perspectives award due in one week

Call for Nominations:  Agricultural Advocates, Enthusiasts, and Visionaries

The Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives program will seek out and celebrate 100 visionaries - the entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders who are shaping the future of agriculture and the fabric of our nation. To recognize the diverse ways individuals are contributing to the future success of rural communities, nominations will be accepted in the following ten categories:

Deadline: December 18th
10 Categories
  • Leadership (over 21)
  • Youth Leadership (21 and younger)
  • Rural Policy Influence
  • Beginning Farmer or Rancher Achievement
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Sustainability and Natural Resource Conservation
  • Financial Stewardship
  • Mentoring and Volunteerism
  • Agriculture Education and Community Impact
  • Rural and Urban Connection
Share Stories: The 100 selected honorees will have the opportunity to share their stories, inspire others with their vision and advocate for agriculture. 
$10,000 Award: Ten exceptional leaders, one in each category, will each receive a $10,000 award to help further their contributions to thriving rural communities and agriculture. 

Event in DC!: These 10 honorees and a guest will be invited to Washington, D.C., to participate in a special recognition event in 2016. Read more!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Business courses for farmers

While knowledge of how to grow a particular crop is critical to small farm success, equally important are the business planning and decision making skills to make the numbers work.

This is why, in addition to a number of courses specific to a farm enterprise, the Cornell Small Farms Program offers a wide array of business planning courses available through its Northeast Beginning Farmer Project.


Winter 2016 Business Courses

BF 102: Markets and Profits: Exploring the Feasibility of Your Ideas
Have an idea for a farm enterprise but not sure if it's feasible? This course will get you started exploring the potential markets and profitability of your ideas. It picks up where BF 101: Square One left off, so follows a natural learning progression from that course. (You do not have to take BF 101 before taking BF 102)

Course Dates: January 14th - February 28th, 2016

BF 201: Effective Marketing: Sell Smarter, Not Harder
Most of us go into farming with the thought of making some - or all - of our livelihood through the sale of what we make or grow. As you grow your operation to provide more of your family's income, having a carefully planned marketing strategy becomes more critical. Completion of this online course will enable you to better understand how to price your products, position yourself in the "buy local", direct sales or wholesale marketplace, and understand low-cost "guerrilla" marketing tactics to get the best bang for your buck and make your farm operation financially sustainable.

Course Dates: January 11th - February 21st, 2016

BF 203: Holistic Financial Planning: Building Profit into the Picture
If you've been struggling to make your farm operation profitable without driving yourself into the ground, this financial planning course is for you. Ultimately it will help you with the delicate balancing act that all farmers must succeed in:  balancing healthy profits with healthy land and a healthy farm family and personal life.  You will learn how to make financial decisions toward farm & family values and goals, and how to build profit into your plans up front, rather than hoping there is something left once expenses are subtracted from income. If you have been struggling with the financial statements in your business plan, this is a great course to help you focus in on these and get clear on your numbers.

Course Dates: January 20th - February 24th, 2016

BF 202: Planning to Stay in Business - Writing Your Business Plan
Whether you intend to borrow money or not, heading into a farm venture without a business plan is like setting sail across the ocean without a map. Either way, you're likely to run into bumps and twists that can derail your venture. Arm yourself with a business plan and you will have a guide to aid your farm decision-making and demonstrate to yourself and your family that your ideas are feasible. This intensive, fast-paced course is designed to help you build your plan quickly.

Course Dates: February 4th - March 10th, 2016 | More Info

BF 103: Taking Care of Business - Understanding the Business, Regulatory, and Tax Implications of Your Farm                                                           

This course is designed to help aspiring or beginning farmers better assess and manage a variety of risks that farmers face in operating their farms.  Throughout the six week period, topics essential for operating a farm business will be discussed. Participants will learn about insurance coverages, types of business structures and tax information.

Course Dates: March 14th - April 11th, 2016


About Our Online Courses
From aspiring to experienced farmers, there is a course for nearly everyone. Check out our handy chart on the course home page to direct you to the right courses for your experience level.

What are the courses like? All of our courses consist of weekly real-time webinars followed by homework, readings, and discussions on your own time in an online setting. If you aren't able to attend the live webinars, they are always recorded for later viewing.

Cost? Each course is $200, but up to 4 people from the same farm may participate without paying extra. See the course description page for more on a particular course.



The Hunger Volunteer Connection is a first-of-its-kind one-stop shop, bringing together volunteer opportunities and tools to help organizations and individuals find ways to end hunger in their own communities. One of the site's key features is the largest searchable source of U.S. volunteer listings to fight hunger. It also includes a suite of tools to help organizations enlist skills-based volunteers, benchmark best practices and more. The ConAgra Foods Foundation convened the group, which includes the Alliance Against Hunger, the Taproot Foundation, Points of Light, and the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Source: Hunger Volunteer Connection, 12/1/15, Volunteer Against Hunger

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New report from the White House on SNAP

Hot off the presses! The White House Council of Economic Advisers yesterday released a new report on SNAP (pdf) that highlights the short- and long-term benefits of SNAP, including improved food security and better health, academic and economic outcomes for children and families. Yet despite serving as the cornerstone to alleviating food insecurity, the report finds that current SNAP benefits are too low. Read FRAC’s statement supporting the new evidence featured in the report.

Webinar tomorrow on regional purchasing for school systems

Thursday, Dec. 10, 1-2pm EST

Forward contracting establishes a price to be paid for a certain quantity of product to be provided at a future date. Learn how forward contracting can help maximize your procurement budget and support local farmers at the same time. Speakers will highlight the benefits and challenges of forward contracting school food and demonstrate how to write forward contracts. School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. Register here

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Saying hello (and goodbye, sort of) to Dave Rice

GardenShare intern, Anna Kowanko, has been interviewing farmers and recently wrote this profile of Dave Rice, who is both a local farmer and a volunteer member of the Board of Directors at GardenShare.  While Dave's three-year term on the Board is up this month, he has decided to stay involved by volunteering with one of our committees.  Thank you, Dave, and we are so glad you are staying on!

David Rice of Sweet Core Farm assembles his green roofed pop-up tent third down from the main Canton intersection. When I first visit him there is only one table with sparse early summer crops – asparagus and some greens. His booth expands throughout the summer to line the open walls of the tent, now laden with the rainbow – beets, various potatoes, and a continuous supply of lettuce, swiss chard, and greens. David is a medium sized man, with greying hair that today pokes out from under his hunter green baseball hat. He has forgiving blue eyes protected by thick dark eyebrows and a small smile at the corners of his lips that shows his humor. David wears a green accented cream-colored flannel over his dark purple Sweet Core Farm shirt, which appears to be his Farmers Market uniform. When we arrive he hands me a small zip lock bag of asparagus that he packed for us: the last time I saw him I told him about my unruly and unharvestable patch

Attached prominently to the front of his table, three posters hang informing customers that “we gladly accept” SNAP (EBT) tokens, CNY Health Bucks, and New York State Farmers Market Checks. For the last three years, David has been a board member of GardenShare, and currently works as the Secretary and on the Development Committee. But, his support for GardenShare has been longer than that. When speaking specifically about SNAP tokens David says, “I think that taking tokens is a win-win for both producer and consumer” as it ensures product will be bought and also people have access to good healthy food. He has been farming for thirty years and selling at the Canton market for eleven.
When David was in high school he worked at Friendly’s: “ I hated it,” he said, telling us about his off-menu sundae rebellion – “the David.” From there he worked at an apple orchard, finding his passion for farming, more specifically fruit farming. He went to college in New Hampshire, hoping one day to own his own orchard. After college he worked briefly for a you-pick apple farm and ran a CSA in New Hampshire before moving to New York with his wife and two children.

Sweet Core farm itself is about eight miles outside of Canton (take a right at the four-way intersection). Like many farmers around here, David and his wife moved to the county because the land was affordable. Though I don’t get out to the farm until late fall, evidence of abundance still lingers in the soil. David points out the raised beds where he grows squash and cucumbers and shows us the hearty kale and the rows of carrots, evidence of only a few of his twenty-five crops. But, he really lights up when he shows us his expanding apple orchard of young trees planted five feet apart and trussed up against the wind. He shows us how he is training the branches horizontally to bear fruit: his dream orchard finally coming true.

When we say good-bye David offers me his extra cauliflower starters. David embodies the idea that, like growing a strong garden, forging a strong community is about interconnectedness. One must always looking out for one’s neighbor and make sure that everyone gets to sit at the table.


Bread for the World, a Christian advocacy group, reports that food insecurity and hunger in the U.S. adds $160 billion to national health care spending, although the number is most likely an underestimate. About one in six Americans (50 million people) are hungry or food insecure on a sustained basis, the group notes, a number that has remained “stubbornly high” since 2008, in spite of the economic recovery.

Religion News, 11/23/15, Hunger & Health Care Cost

Monday, December 7, 2015


A bipartisan group of poverty experts says that changes in the US economy and family structure over the past 40 years necessitates new approaches to reducing poverty. Family, education, and work are now so closely linked that they must be studied and improved together if poverty is to be reduced. They cite the growing gap in educational achievement between poor kids and rich kids; the increase in single-parent families; the decline of work among men, especially young black men; unstable work and work hours; stagnating wages; and high rates of incarceration as the principal causes of poverty today. To address these challenges, the experts from organizations as disparate as the American Enterprise Institute and the Annie E. Casey Foundation recommend:

  1. Promoting a new cultural norm surrounding parenthood and marriage.
  2. Promoting delayed, responsible childbearing.
  3. Increasing access to effective parenting education.
  4. Helping less-educated young men and women prosper in work and family.
5.  Improving skills to get well-paying jobs.
6.  Making work pay more for less educated people.
7.  Raising work levels among hard-to-employ people, including the poorly       educated and those with criminal records.
8.  Ensuring that jobs are available.
9.  Increasing public investment in preschool and postsecondary education.
10. Educating the whole child to promote social-emotional and character           development as well as academic skills.
11. Modernizing the organization and accountability of education.
12. Closing resource gaps to reduce education gaps.

Source: American Enterprise Institute, 12/3/15, Reducing Poverty

High tunnel workshop on Wednesday

Webinar tomorrow on funding opportunities for farm to school programs

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 12pm CST

Join the National Farm to School Network and Farm Credit for a webinar highlighting innovative ways to partner with you local Farm Credit association, and learn how your program can grow with creative funding and partnership opportunities. Register here

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Webinar on the economic impact of local food systems

In October 2015 the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems convened a special one-day invitational workshop focused on the economic impacts of  local and regional food systems.  The core of the workshop was based on a USDA-funded local food economic toolkit project

Because there was so much interest in the workshop, the Center for Regional Food Systems is working with the (workshop) instructors to offer a special webinar on Monday, December 14th from 1:30 to 2:30 pm EST.  This webinar will provide an overview of what was covered in the October workshop. Instructors will be Dawn Thilmany and Becca Jablonski from Colorado State University.

To  register for this webinar and receive an e-mail confirmation with information to join the webinar please click the link below

You must register in order to join the webinar. The webinar will be recorded and the link posted on the Center for Regional Food System's website within a few days after the webinar.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Online courses in sustainable food and farming

UMass winter online classes are beginning to fill up and they are also registering for spring semester.  Offerings include:

Winter Courses (December 21 – January 16, 2016)

Registration for spring semester is now open.

Spring Courses (January 19 – April 27, 2016)

To begin planning for the future, see….

Annual Class Schedule