Friday, October 3, 2008

Prairie Horizon's Farm Tour and HEN meeting

My dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association- Hunger and Environmental Nutrition(HEN) convened on Mary Jo Forbord's organic farm in Minnesota for strategic planning, epicurean delights, and amazing convergence of ideas and ideals. After an introductory semester of US Agriculture, I was able to take a field trip into the heart of America to see a history of farm policy in action.

My photos tell the story. Enjoy.

In 1973, the oil crisis, Vietnam war, Watergate and inflation were on the rise. As hunger and depression hit the rural areas, Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butts enters the scene. His motto's:
'fence row to fence row' and 'get big or get out!'

Fern Gale Estrow- New York- MS, RD, CDN - Policy Guru - Driving us home.
Kelly Horton- Seattle- MS, RD, CD Tufts Food Policy Graduate: owner of Connect Nutrition - Co-pilot.

Me with my backseat companion and cohort, Caroline Baum Webber PhD RD- Professor and Director of Dietetic Internship at Western Michigan.

Sunset over the farm.

Back row: Melinda Hemmelgarn MS RD:The Food Sleuth, Susan Roberts JD MS RD: Visionary HEN Mama, Fern
Front row: Caroline, Lynn Mader MBA RD: The All Star, me, Chris Wharton PhD-Nutrition Professor at ASU, but also a rock star: Our Presidential Hopeful, Andy Sarjahani, (almost) RD, Sustainability Soilder at Virginia Tech: Intensity Builder who always lives the dream, Angie Tagtow MS RD LN, Consultant & Food and Society, Ames, Iowa: The Teacher, The Inspiration.

Back: Mary Jo Forbord RD: Co-owner of Prairie Horizons Farm, Family Farm Visionary & Hopeful and HEN Historian, Barbara Hartman RD West Virgina: Spiritual Mama and Guide; Helen Costello MS RD LS- New Hampshire and Friedman School graduate: Or, Melinda, Susan, Fern.
Backrow: Christina Dyer MS RD NYC: The General, Caroline, Lynn, me Chris, Andy, Chief, Angie, Kim Prendergast MS RD- Massachusetts: Our President and Kelly.

Farmer Luverne Forbord takes us on the farm tour.

The dogs run along side, until they hop up for a ride.

Mary Jo explains the challenges of being organic is a conventional and industrial agriculture world. Their love for the land and respect of ecosystem is apparent in everything they do.

Buffer Zone- Since the Forbord's farm is surrounded by GM corn from Cargill, they have opted to utilize some of their own acereage for a buffer zone. Although it is the other farm's responsibility, they came to the conclusion it is more energy efficient than going to court.

The old dairy farm that Laverne grew up on. The silos were built with 20% interest in the 70's during times of grain surplus. They now sit empty since their cattle are grass fed.

Luverne and Mary Jo have a vision of turning the old farm and farm house (below) into a education and community center. They are considering a farmers market, interns and want to utilize the house for guest to come learn and write about an important practice that is eroding away from farms in America.

This could be my home one day.

Erosion is not a new topic to conventional farming and the issue continues to grow due to monocropping and lack of care to the soil. A talk with Angie Tagtow revealed more of the destruction happening in Iowa:

During June 2008, 60% of Iowa's counties lost an average of seven tons of soil per acre as a result of the flooding. That is 15,680 pounds of soil lost in one acre in a month. Year-to-date erosion data have identified several areas in Iowa that have lost upwards of 56 tons of soil per acre. That is more than 125,000 pounds of soil lost per acre in eight months. According to Soil Science Society of America, it takes 500 years to build up one inch of topsoil. Without significant transformation in agriculture and land use policies and practices which protect, preserve and build fertile soil, the astounding loss of soil will significantly deteriorate the ability to grow healthy, fresh food and sustain societies.

How' that for homeland security?

This is about 5 feet of erosion on the Forbord's property line going into the Cargill field. GM corn and soy continues to be planted here annually. Another issue is the lack of biodiversity, which directly translates to the American diet.

The Forbords are also running out of pasture this season due to the lack of rain in the last three months. These soybeans, which typically would be harvested and then dried, have dried out in the fields.

The Forbord's beef. These guys were (hold your ears guys) going to slaughter the next day.

He was not too happy that we were visiting.

Picking crab-apples. In this area, the Forbord's had brought in a herd of goats to do some clearing work, and clear they did. Across from here they are attempting to regrow some of the lost native prairie lands. It is said that only 1% of the native prairie's remain in the area. The regrowth project is being done completely by hand.

Kelly and her crab-apples.

Chief takes a ride.

Laverne let me drive the tractor as Chris, Cristina and Kim held on for dear life. Apparently I was a natural. This tractor is from the 50's!

Letting the clutch out nice and easy.

The HEN founders/grandma's: Helen, Mary Pat Raimondi, Barb, Sue and Angie.

The guys harvest food from the garden for our Iron Chef competition. I think Chris found a good one. The secret ingredients were Apples and Farrow (a grain).

Our team's meal.

Me pondering the plight of the organic farmer and the need for a major overhaul in the agriculture policies enacted in this country to help save the family farm.

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