Welcome to RAFI E-News!
In an effort to keep our supporters informed and involved in RAFI’s work on behalf of family farmers, we will now be publishing a biannual e-newsletter.
RAFI E-News is a compilation of recent RAFI news, new research, resources and much more. This edition features articles on RAFI staff members past and present, important project updates regarding work on organics, farmer-led seed trials, crop insurance, farmer projects, and rural development.
This summer, RAFI staff have been busy planting and harvesting organic field trials, visiting innovative farm-based enterprises across the state, providing financial counseling to farmers who call on us for help, and helping farmer’s markets launch SNAP incentive programs. In addition to our ongoing research, policy and advocacy efforts, we’ve also devoted a great deal of attention to contract poultry, as we continue to leverage the momentum generated by John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight show in May.
We hope these updates will provide you with useful and timely information on RAFI’s work, as well as issues affecting farmers today.
RAFI E-News will be published on the RAFI blog and emailed to subscribers via email.
>> An Interview with Kathy Zaumseil, RAFI Veteran of 25 Years
>> Celebrating the Life of Kathryn Waller, Past Board President
>> The New Farmer’s Almanac Features Essays by RAFI Staffer
>> Seed Briefs
>> Report from the Field
>> RAFI Rural Development
>> NC Women Dig and Chop Their Way to the Top
>> Farmer Spotlight
Interview with Kathy Zaumseil, RAFI Veteran of 25 Years
Kathy Zaumseil, Director of Administration, a strong and tranquil presence at RAFI, officially retired in March of this year after over a quarter century of service with the organization. Kathy was responsible for all admin functions in HR, finance, and general operations. She served as RAFI’s unofficial historian, because of her long career, that crossed over from the National Sharecroppers Fund/Rural Advancement Fund to what RAFI is today. Read on for a one-on-one interview with Kathy and find out about some of her cherished RAFI memories.
Celebrating the Life of Kathryn Waller
Mrs. Kathryn Waller, former Executive Director of Rural Advancement Fund and past Board President of RAFI, died peacefully in her Isle of Hope home in early March of this year.
In an effort to share the impact of Kathryn’s work with RAFI, as well as some of her words of wisdom, we have written an article about Kathryn that has been published on our website, “Celebrating the Life of Kathryn Waller, Past Board President.”
“The message I want to bring to you now is the message of hope. The source of that hope lies in the hearts of the American people…not the high and the mighty, the rich and the powerful, although some of these are included, but primarily I see the source in the quiet, unsung heroes of our country who daily set their minds and hearts to the deeds that need doing.” -Kathryn Waller (1986)
The New Farmer’s Almanac Features Essays by RAFI Staffer
Now that summer is here, it’s the perfect time to introduce you to one of our favorite summer reads, The New Farmer’s Almanac 2015. Included in the book are two essays by RAFI staffer, Jean Willoughby.
Jean serves as Project Director for the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund, our cost-share grant program for innovative and entrepreneurial farmers. She also works closely with the Farm Sustainability Program staff on projects related to farmer training programs, farm finance and risk management education, and rural cooperative development.
One of Jean’s essays focuses on the history of agricultural cooperatives and the other on the value of an agrarian way of life.
From the Chelsea Green Blog: “In this volume of essays curated for the producer culture rather than consumers, new farmers will find information on a wide range of topics including restoration agro-forestry, reclaiming high desert urban farmland, starting a co-op, pickup truck maintenance, cheap healthcare, farming while pregnant, farm terraces, and so much more.”
Hayes Simpson, RAFI’s Communications Coordinator VISTA interviewed Jean about her contributions to The New Farmer’s Almanac.
- On March 12th to 13th, the USDA convened a Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence of GMO and Non-GMO Crops in Raleigh, NC. The invitation-only event was organized to address what happens when non-GMO crops are contaminated with GMO pollen.
- Earlier this year RAFI presented at the EcoFarm Conference in Pacific Grove, CA on the topics of the Agricultural Justice Project, Domestic Fair Trade, and Seeds and Breeds. The Conference is the largest sustainable agriculture conference in CA and the oldest in the country.
- RAFI gave a presentation on GMO at the Organic Seed Alliance in February, submitted testimony to USDA concerning GMO contamination in March and May, and continues to participate in the Non GMO Working Group on seed and policy strategies. For more information on GMOs see The Farmers’ Guide to GMOs.
- Look forward to more updates coming soon on the Just Foods Blog.
Report from the Field
We have been getting our boots on the ground all spring long!
This spring the Breeding for Organic Production Systems (BOPS) team planted peanut test plots in Virginia and Georgia using the line Dr. Tom Isleib is breeding for organic production. It was a busy June with the harvesting of farmer-led trials of non-GMO wheat and the planting of two soybean plots and two corn plots, one each in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions of the state. Six non-GMO cotton varieties along with a cross-cultivation plot were planted at a research station in Rocky Mount. Cross cultivation is one method that the team is using to experiment with weed management strategies. The results of all trials will be posted on the BOPS page.
The Agricultural Reinvestment Fund team has been hitting the road and visiting farms all over the state to meet with 2015 Agricultural Reinvestment Fund cost-share grant recipients. Farm visits have been featured on the From the Farmstand Blog. If you are interested in knowing more about this year’s projects, please see the full list of 2015 grantees with project descriptions.
- HBO aired a new episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about the poultry industry. RAFI’s Executive Director, Scott Marlow, as well as several RAFI staff members worked closely with show producers to provide important information about the topic. Following the airing of the show, RAFI put together research to provide an overview of the data behind the show’s highlighted issues and published it, as “The John Oliver Viewer’s Guide.”
- RAFI’s Benny Bunting delivered a spot-on talk about poultry industry abuses against farmers under contract. Benny was invited by Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) to be on the panel of a Congressional briefing to discuss protections for farmers against poultry industry retaliation.
- RAFI is a Media Partner in the production of a new film, Under Contract. The film will bring to light predatory contract practices in poultry and hog production by delivering the stories of farmers and the advocates that have fought alongside them.
- Considerable work has been done this spring on researching and educating about Whole-Farm Revenue Protection crop insurance (WFRP). Preliminary data was collected and used to see how the recent crop insurance landscape has changed with the introduction of the new policy. RAFI released a producer survey on Whole Farm Revenue Protection in the beginning of July.
- Our Contract Agriculture Reform page was updated to include new research, resources, content, and stories. Please share these valuable resources!
- Beyond Hunger Relief program staff and project partners, released a draft version of a literature review titled “The Impact of Selling Into Low Income Communities.“
- RAFI board and staff members were delighted to meet the newest member of the Board of Directors at the June Board Meeting. We welcome Gayle Williams and thank her and each of our board members for their insights and guidance.
RAFI Rural Development
As a recipient of USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development grant, RAFI is now acting as a Center for Rural Cooperative and Farm Enterprise Development. The Center provides technical assistance to a select group of producers engaged in collaboration around legal, financial, market, and management risk.
This spring, RAFI launched the Farm Fresh and Healthy Program with four farmer’s markets and roadside stands in North Carolina Tier 1 counties. The goal of the program is to support rural communities, both providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables and boosting revenue for local farmers. The primary strategy in this initial phase is the Fresh Bucks consumer incentive program. SNAP transactions at market are matched up to $10 with bonus fresh bucks tokens, doubling purchasing power and putting more dollars towards local farms.
NC Women Dig and Chop Their Way to the Top
Inspired by Kim Severson’s New York Times article, “The North Carolina Way: A Food Sisterhood Flourishes in North Carolina,” RAFI staff decided to recognize some of the great female farmers that RAFI has worked with through the Agricultural Reinvestment Fund’s grant program. “Women Dig and Chop Their Way to the Top in North Carolina’s Food and Ag Sectors,” links to profiles highlighting aspects of their farms and grant projects. We think it is a good time to recognize these women again now, with market season in full swing!
Through extensive research and innovative agricultural practices, Wendy and Jeff Woolard of Autryville, NC have become successful farmers of hydroponic vegetables, filling a niche in their community. RAFI’s AmeriCorps VISTA Ben Paynter has written an in-depth profile of the Woolards, covering the inspiration behind their new farming business, hydroponic methods they are using, and the niche that they are filling.
“By producing vegetables through hydroponics, the Woolards are bringing an innovative agricultural practice to their area for other growers to learn from and emulate.”
- A one-day organic farmer focus session was hosted by RAFI at the MOSES Conference in Wisconsin, the largest organic and sustainable farming event in the U.S., to continue to map out our joint strategies ahead.
- Scott Marlow and James Robinson held a Texas Drought Webinar in early April on current disaster assistance programs, continuing drought response and available resources.
- A screening of “Food Chains” was held in the Dan Pollitt Center for National Farmworker Awareness Week. Before the movie there was a discussion of food justice issues for farm workers and farmers, as well as the importance of public awareness of these issues. The discussion panel included RAFI Executive Director Scott Marlow, Just Foods Program Director Michael Sligh, and guest Laxmi Haynes, Assistant Director of SAF.
- RAFI staff held two Resourceful Farmer Workshops this spring to discuss farm risk management issues and educate attendees about risk management resources and tools.
- In March, RAFI participated in NC Ag Awareness Day at the NC General Assembly, with the goal of educating lawmakers about the critical role sustainable agriculture plays in the health of North Carolina’s rural economy, land, air and water. RAFI staff and a group of farmers we have assisted in the past attended to inform legislators about agricultural innovations and economic growth made possible through state-supported agricultural programs and initiatives.
- The 2015 Regional Come to the Table Conference series was a huge success! We believe our collective insights about how we approach food justice work entered a new level, with many avenues for discussion and growth. This year’s regional conferences were held in Lumberton, Sylva, and Elon NC. A new video highlighting the Piedmont Come to the Table Conference has just been released.
You are invited: Join us on September 13th for the 3rd Annual Crop Hop!
We’re bringing it back home to downtown Pittsboro ya’ll! Polish up those dancing shoes and come on out to the Pittsboro Road House & General Store from 5pm to 9pm on September 13th and join us for:
>Live music & square dance with caller
>Live auction by Tucker and MacKenzie Withington
>Dinner featuring locally sourced ingredients
We’ll look forward to seeing you there!
All the best,
We thank all of our friends and supporters for steadfastly being there beside us. We are proud to witness how our collective contributions are keeping up the momentum, creating a fair world for farmers and the foundation for a sustainable future.
Please consider making a donation to help support family farms.