Friday, January 30, 2009

Open Air: St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market

Mercedes Corporation, which runs the Waterloo and St. Jacobs farmers’ markets in the south end of Woolwich Township, Ontario, will be closing the Waterloo market on Feb. 7.

The Waterloo Market, also known as "the Sunday Market," had operated from March to December with a mix of approximately 60 craft and food vendors. Vendors from the market, which has been in operation since the early 1970s, will have the option to move across the street to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, according to a report in the Elmira Independent.

The building used for the Waterloo Farmers’ Market is being revamped for antique vendors and is expected to open in April.

The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market operates year round on Thursdays and Saturdays, from 7 a.m to 3 p.m., and on Tuesdays during the summer months.

It features more than 600 indoor and outdoor vendors.

Bites: Fruit and Veggies May Prevent Bone Loss

A new study suggests that neutralizing an acid-producing diet may be an important key to reducing bone breakdown, or "turnover," while aging. The study comes on the heels of several other studies questioning the efficacy of consuming more-than-recommended amounts of calcium to protect against bone loss.

The study was led by physician and nutrition specialist Bess Dawson-Hughes at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass. ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Fruits and vegetables are metabolized to bicarbonate and thus are alkali-producing. But the typical American diet is rich in protein and cereal grains that are metabolized to acid, and thus are acid-producing. With aging, such diets lead to a mild but slowly increasing metabolic "acidosis."

Researchers led by nutrition specialist Bess Dawson-Hughes at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University conducted a placebo-controlled study involving healthy male and female volunteers aged 50 or older. Key measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the intervention, which lasted three months.

A group of 78 volunteers had been provided either of two bicarbonates--potassium or sodium--along with their usual diet and exercise regimes. Key bone mineral nutrients were controlled to reduce variation in study outcomes. The bicarbonate groups consumed an amount of bicarbonate equivalent to about 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. This allowed the researchers to look at possible acid-neutralizing effects from an adequate, not high, alkali load.

The results showed that the volunteers in the bicarbonate groups had significant reductions in biomarkers that are associated with bone loss and fracture.

The authors concluded that increasing the alkali content of the diet, for example by consuming more fruits and vegetables, merits further study as a safe and low-cost approach to improving skeletal health in older men and women.

Source: Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Contests: Farmers' Market Poster Contest

The Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market is inviting artists of all ages to think spring in the dead of a bruising winter and contribute entries to its 2009 farmers market poster contest.

Entries, representing the market on paper, are due Feb. 13, at the West End Building, 4101 Kruse Way. Each year, a youth (under 18) and adult submission is selected for reproduction on posters and other items.

Any medium can be used. The contest is not just open to Lake Oswego residents, but "anybody and everybody," according to Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation events supervisor Kathy Kern. Last year's record turnout attracted 90 entries.

Entries will be displayed at the West End Building, Feb. 18 to March 13, for public vote, and remain on display through May. Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market opens May 16.

Contest guidelines are available online.

Have You Tried...? Chainless Folding Bicycles

With demand for folding bikes gaining speed -- especially among budget-minded and eco-conscious users in metropolitan areas -- a new chainless technology has been introduced that eliminates the grease factor, which has been the messiest complaint city riders have had about folding bicycles.

Abio Bikes has introduced a line of greaseless and chainless folding bikes that liberate pedal-pushers from conventional chain versions by providing a cleaner, greener and more maintenance-free bike.

"Chainless bicycles are a great thing, especially for those who don't want to fuss with maintenance and lubrication," says Abio Bikes founder Teck Chu. "With this system owners can now spend less time tinkering and more time on the road."

Abio's belt-drive "Verdion" and shaft-drive "Penza" models are specially designed and built so there are no greasy or exposed parts. Versatile and durable, the chainless bikes deliver a smooth ride and are easy to fold, carry and store.

The diminutive yet stylish folders weigh around 30 pounds, and can compactly fold and unfold in about 15 seconds. Folding bikes allow owners to fit them in buses, trains, planes and cars as well as space-restricted apartments and offices, where they can slip into a closet or under a desk.

Abio Bikes come 95-percent assembled. Only minor tightening and adjustments are needed before hitting the road. List prices start at $790.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Stall Review: SuperMedia

Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World
by Charlie Beckett
Wiley-Blackwell, 2008

Journalism is in serious trouble. Just 30 year ago, television broadcasts were the primary news source for the majority of Americans, just as radio and newspapers dominated in prior generations. Today, audiences for all three media are fading fast as more and more of us turn to a plethora of online sources for news and information.

How is the journalism profession adjusting to this new reality? In the same sense that anyone can be an actor, with or without schooling, thousands of "citizen journalists" or amateurs have joined the ranks of the professionally trained and some of them have astonishingly large audiences.

"Welcome to the era of SuperMedia and the hero of the age, the Networked Journalist," writes Charlie Beckett in this thoughtful analysis of change in progress. "Networked journalists are open, interactive, and share the process. Instead of gatekeepers, they are facilitators: the public become co-producers."

But in order for journalism to be sustained and be able to "save the world," Beckett argues that its core virtues of critical investigation and independent observation need to be upheld in this new participatory environment.

Beckett is director of Polis, the media thinktank at the London School of Economics.

Growth Spurts: Grass Strips Curb Erosion, Block Herbicide Runoff

Grass filter strips placed in riparian zones not only curb soil erosion, but also block and degrade the widely used herbicide atrazine, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists report.

Atrazine has been used extensively to suppress weeds in corn production for decades, but because it's applied directly to soil it's especially prone to losses in surface runoff. The contamination of surface water by atrazine and its less-toxic breakdown components has raised ecological concerns.

Riparian zones are transitional areas between upland areas, such as crop fields, and water bodies. The grasses and other vegetation in these zones help reduce pollution in streams and lakes.

In studies of the effect of different grass species on herbicide transport and degradation, eastern gammagrass showed the highest capacity for promoting atrazine degradation. Orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass, and switchgrass were also effective.

The studies have shown that grass buffers reduced the transport of herbicides to shallow groundwater and in runoff. These buffers can reduce herbicide transport through trapping of sediment and by increased infiltration of water into the soil.

Source: Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Growth Spurts: Help for Dairies - MILC Payments

With U.S. milk prices collapsing after two years of historical highs, an old dairy program reauthorized by the 2008 Farm Bill may aid dairy producers by adding additional income over the coming months.

Dairy producers are being encouraged to sign up for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) -- a program that provides monthly payments to producers when market prices drop below the program's defined trigger price.

MILC was first authorized by the dairy title of the 2002 Farm Bill, and after years of extensions has been included in the 2008 dairy title of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act. MILC now includes a feed cost adjuster and increases in both the payment rate and production eligibility among small to medium-sized dairy farms.

"MILC functions similarly to the old grain countercyclical payment programs," says Cameron Thraen, an Ohio State University Extension dairy economist. "The program has an identified target or trigger price and when the market price drops below that trigger price, the difference between the two is calculated and farmers receive 45 percent of that difference."

With milk prices tumbling nearly 35 percent in just the past few weeks due to decreased domestic and global demand and the outlook for 2009 looking grim, Thraen said that dairy producers should act quickly to sign up for the MILC program.

"There is absolutely no cost to sign up for the progrom. Any producer who is not signed up for the program or is not thinking about signing up is missing an excellent opportunity."

Thraen reminds producers that participating in the previous MILC program does not automatically enroll a producer in the current program. New sign-up forms must be completed and submitted.

Details of how the program works are available in a series of documents located on Thraen's OSU Extension website. The information includes a spreadsheet that allows dairy producers to calculate monthly eligible milk shipments, MILC payments, and total anticipated revenue from the program based on actual or estimated monthly milk and feed prices throughout fiscal year 2009.

The following are some basics dairy producers should know about MILC:
  • Sign-ups for MILC began on Dec. 22, 2008. Producers can sign up anytime during 2009 to be eligible to receive potential payments, but must do so the month prior to when they would like to enter the program. Producers can sign up to participate in MILC by contacting their local Farm Service Agency.
  • The cap on milk production to remain eligible is 2.985 million pounds per fiscal year. Once a dairy farm’s monthly milk shipment reaches the cap, the producer is no longer eligible to receive payments for the current fiscal year.
  • There is no cost to sign up for the program. But once sign-up occurs and a start month is selected, there can be no adjustments. That is, if a farmer enters the program during a time when there are no triggered payments, that farmer cannot readjust eligibility to a future date.
  • New to MILC for the 2008 Farm Bill is the inclusion of dairy feed costs, which are calculated into the projected payment. The adjustment was made to reflect market shifts based on corn, soybeans and alfalfa prices.
  • Payment per hundredweight is based on 45 percent of the difference between the market price and feed price adjusted MILC trigger price.
Source: Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

Good Weight: Naturally Misleading Labels

There more "natural" products on grocery store shelves these days, but in most cases the word "natural" has little meaning.

According to the Mintel Global New Products Database, which monitors the appearance of new household products, a whopping one-third of all new U.S. food and beverage products in 2008
highlighted claims of being "natural" or "all natural," or something similar, including "organic," "no additives or preservatives" and "whole grain."

While dietitians encourage consumers to look for "whole grain" on labels to boost nutrition (according to national recommendations, half the grains we eat should be whole), the other terms have little to do with nutrition. For example, foods labeled "organic" must follow guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, but that has everything to do with how plants are grown and how animals are raised, and nothing to do with the nutritive value of the final product.

Similarly, the term "no additives or preservatives" doesn't affect the nutrition of the product -- it just means there are no synthetic additives or preservatives. Those foods can still be loaded with saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar or other ingredients you want to limit in your diet.

The same can be said for the term "natural." The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry, says those products can be labeled "natural" if they don't contain any artificial ingredients or added color, and are only minimally processed. But if "natural" is used on the label, it must also give an additional explanation, such as "no added colorings or artificial ingredients."

But the Food and Drug Administration allows the term "natural" to be used on a food label if it's "truthful," "not misleading," and when the food contains no added colors, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Still, there's a lot of gray area.

In 2005, the FDA declined a request to more specifically define what is meant by "natural" when it comes to foods. Soon after, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued Kraft Foods because of an "all natural" claim on Capri Sun drinks (the lawsuit was dropped when Kraft agreed to take the claim off the label). The group also threatened to sue the makers of 7 Up for making the same claim, but the makers removed the term from the label rather than going to court.

What's a consumer to do? Experts recommend to always look beyond what's on the front label, and check the ingredients list. Decide for yourself if the items listed there seem "natural" to you. But don't be lured by the pleasant sounding word "natural" alone. After all, arsenic is natural,
but you sure wouldn't want to eat it.

Source: Martha Filipic, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Stall Review: Winter Sky

Winter Sky
New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008
by Coleman Barks
University of Georgia Press, 2008

Four decades of poet Coleman Barks' work are included in this retrospective, drawn from seven previously published books and accented by a half dozen new poems. They are presented in reverse chronological order and grouped according to the books in which they appeared: Scrapwood Man (2007), Tentmaking (2002), Club: Granddaughter Poems (2001), Gourd Seed (1993), We're Laughing at the Damage (1977), New Words (1976), The Juice (1972).

This is the first extensive collection of poetry by Barks, who is better known as a translator of Rumi and other mystic poets of Persia. It includes "Just This Once," his best-known poem, published and widely circulated online in the days before the invasion of Iraq. Structured as an open letter to President Bush, it makes a poetic plea for peace and offers a poignant alternative to war:

President Bush, before you order air strikes,
imagine the first cruise
missile as a direct hit on your closest friend.

That might be Laura. Then twenty-five other
family and friends.
There are no survivors. Now imagine some

other way to do it. Quadruple the inspectors.
Put a thousand and one
U.N. people in. Then call for peace activists

to volunteer to go to Iraq for two weeks each.
Flood that country with
well-meaning tourists, people curious about

the land that produced the great saints, Gilani,
Hallaj, and Rabia.

While the themes of Barks' poetry do not arise from the natural world as much as they do in Mary Oliver's work, they are nevertheless deeply rooted in the cultures and environments of the rural Deep South. In "The Great Blue Heron" he reflects on his first crane sighting, at the age of 7, before it was shot from its flight by a tack room attendant:

... but here's the biggest bird
I've ever seen, hug, bluish-grey
stretching between hemlock and laurel,
moving slow against the creekwind,
legs and body hanging almost straight down

And in the summer of 1945, when two atom bombs were dropped from the sky, he and a friend have a close encounter with a screech owl trapped in a stairwell that connects them to the universal:

These birds are pictures of our being alone,
at large: light flight,
then back to a fearful perch

We are such fluttering monsters
moving within several shapes, till some appearance

While this collection covers a wide range of issues and experiences, the through line is the story of a man like Benjamin Button, aging in reverse and progressing verse by verse toward an understanding of his place in the universe.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Recipe File: Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

A serving of this pudding is a delicious way to add whole grain breads to your meals. Buttering each slice of bread and sprinkling it with cinnamon before cutting it into cubes makes every bite especially tasty. Adapted from: Montana Extension Nutrition Education Program's website recipes.


* 5 slices whole wheat bread

* 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
* 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1/3 cup sugar, white or brown
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 3 eggs
* 2 cups nonfat liquid milk
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spread one side of bread with margarine or butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
3. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes.
4. In a medium-sized bowl, combine bread cubes, sugar, and raisins.
5. In another bowl, blend eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla. Pour liquid over bread mixture; lightly mix.
6. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish that has been coated with oil or sprayed with a nonstick spray.
7. Bake uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until the center of the mixture reaches 160 degrees F when measured with a food thermometer. At this temperature, a metal knife inserted near the center of the pudding comes out clean.
8. Serve warm or cold. Do not let bread pudding set at room temperature over 2 hours total time. Eat within 3 to 4 days.

Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Yield: 6 servings

Friday, January 23, 2009

Home Grown: Frost Seeding

A basic requirement for frost seeding success is to make sure that the sod cover has been opened up, and that there is not much growth present to prevent the seed from coming into contact with bare soil. Generally, a pasture is prepared for frost seeding by grazing it down hard, although some light tillage or a close mowing could also be used.

Another frost seeding method involves combining frost seeding with hoof action. Let your animals graze the paddock in early March to scuff up the soil and open up bare areas in the sod. At this point, broadcast the forage seed across the paddock. Keep the animals in the paddock another couple of days and let them continue to graze and trample or hoof in the seed. This method seems to work best with sheep because they don't trample the seed into the soil too deep.

In general, legumes tend to work better for frost seeding compared to grasses.

Legume seeds are typically heavier than grass seeds and can reach the soil level more easily. Another advantage to frost seeding a legume is that legumes 'fix' nitrogen typically in excess of their own needs. The existing plants use the excess nitrogen, which improves their quality as a feedstuff. Once legumes become established in a stand of pasture and compose 25 percent to 30 percent of the stand, there is really no need to apply supplemental nitrogen...

... continued in Home Grown

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Stall Review: The Lady Was a Gambler

The Lady Was a Gambler: True Stories of Notorious Women of the Old West
by Chris Enss. TwoDot, 2007

Contrary to most media representations, men did not win the West alone. There were women involved as well.

Old West occupations like cowboying and mining were almost exclusively male, but there were exceptions. There were also a few women whose circumstances or inclination led them to become professional gamblers and card sharks.

Author and screenwriter Chris Enss introduces 15 colorful, independent, and exceptional women gamblers of the Old West in this collection of cardsharp profiles.

"Throughout the history of the early gaming days of the Old West, women proved they were just as capable as men at dealing cards and throwing dice," Enss claims.

Even so, professional women gamblers were a rarity and, according to Enss, "the most successful lady gamblers possessed stunning good looks, which helped disarm aggressive opponents and gave them something pretty to look at as they lost their moeny."

The women profiled are Alice Ivers, Eleanora Dumont, Lottie Deno, Kitty LeRoy, Belle Ryan Cora, Gertudis Maria Barcelo, Belle Siddons, Kate O'Leary, Belle Starr, Minnie Smith, Martha Jane Canary, Jenny Rowe and Mary Hamlin.

Book Stall: The Great Book of Chocolate

The Great Book of Chocolate
The Chocolate Lover's Guide with Recipes
by David Lebovitz
Ten Speed Press, 2004

Former Chez Panisse pastry chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz compiled this compact but far-reaching guide to all things chocolate.

"Chocolate, in my biased opinion, is the most universally provoking and addictive flavor," Lebovitz explains, describing his book as "a gift to all chocolate lovers," an informed tour of the world of chocolates and chocolate-making that includes cooking tips and recipes.

Lebovitz's tour includes an introduction to cacao beans and where they are grown, a primer on the different types of chocolates from couverture to white chocolate, some comments on the healthy benefits of chocolate, and some suggestions on choosing a chocolatier. He devotes a full chapter to the chocolates in Paris, which he claims has more fantastic chocolate boutiques than any other city in the world.

The recipes includes riffs on the classic brownie and Lebovitz's signature Rocky Road as well as Chocolat Tarte de Rue Tatin, Triple-Chocolate Parfait and Black-Bottom Cupcakes. There are 30 recipes in all preceeding a resource section of chocolatier websites.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Husbandry: How Cats Purr

The internet says science is not sure
how cats purr, probably
a vibration of the whole larynx,
unlike what we do when we talk.

Less likely, a blood vessel
moving across the chest wall.

As a child I tried to make every cat I met
purr. That was one of the early miracles,
the stroking to perfection.

Here is something I have never heard:
a feline purrs in two conditions,
when deeply content and when
mortally wounded, to calm themselves,
readying for the death-opening.

The low frequency evidently helps
to strengthen bones and heal
damaged organs.

-- Coleman Barks, "Purring" from Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968–2008

Friday, January 16, 2009

Home Grown: Clearing the Air with Houseplants

Houseplants certainly add to a home’s d├ęcor, but they can also purify indoor air.

“This is an area that’s been largely ignored, and the health issues are potentially astronomical,” say University of Georgia horticulturist Stanley Kays. “We spend as much as 90 percent of our time indoors breathing indoor air that often contains a diverse range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are toxic.”

House plants can absorb those VOCs. To determine the best air-purifying houseplants, researchers at the University of Georgia evaluated 32 plant species. Of those tested, purple waffle plant (Hemigraphis alternata) best removed VOCs from the air.

Other species with superior filtering abilities were English ivy, purple heart, foxtail fern and wax plant.

In the study, the plants were tested for their ability to remove benzene, toluene, octane, and trichloroethylene, all considered toxic. Plant specimens were placed in sealed glass containers. The VOC levels within were monitored over a six-hour period.

More than 300 volatile organic compounds have been identified as indoor contaminants, not including dust and inorganic gases. These compounds can come from carpet, wood panels, paint, people, pets and various other sources. Benzene and toluene come from newspapers, schoolbooks, electric shavers, portable CD players, liquid waxes and some adhesives.

VOCs also emanate from home electronic equipment, furniture, carpet and construction materials.

Poor indoor air quality can result in "new house syndrome" and "sick building syndrome" that can cause a diverse cross-section of ailments, including allergies, asthma,fatigue and headaches.

Before testing the plants, the researchers conducted tests for VOCs in three older, upper middle-class homes in Athens, Georgia. Older homes are often more drafty than newer homes, which are built tighter to better insulate them.

“The results really shocked me,” Kays said. “All three homes had surprisingly high levels of organic compounds in their air. These were older homes. So if the levels are high there, then it’s probably widespread in newer homes.”

To reduce the VOC levels in your home, the researchers recommend adding a cross-section of plants, one per 100 square feet of living space. Using active charcoal filters in heating and air conditioning systems helps, too.

Source: University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

FAQ: I make several products. Which one will sell best at Farmer's Market Online?

Vendors at Farmer's Market Online communicate with and make sales to shoppers directly. We require no sales reports and charge no commissions. Consequently, we have no sales figures to offer, or comparisons to share regarding the marketability of one product over another.

Each Booth is limited to one featured product (and all available flavors or varieties), such as apples or soap or baskets, and each Booth is leased in a specific section of the market (Specialty Foods, Baked Goods, Meats, Handmade Crafts, etc.). You are welcome to change the featured product at any time during the term of the lease as long as the product is appropriate to the section (i.e., Specialty Foods).

In other words, you could feature your Chutney in your Booth for a couple months and then change to Salsa for a couple months and compare your results.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

FAQ: Can I advertise on your Bulletin Board pages?

While we do not sell advertising for specific content pages linked from our Bulletin Board like the one on How to Start Farming or the Multiple Uses for Fruitcake posted on Farm Fresh!, we welcome listings for home-made, handcrafted and farm raised goods on the Buy Direct Directory as well as our Booths.

Advertising for resale items is also welcome in the Kitchen Supply (listing registration), Gift Shop, Garden Center, Craft Supplies, Pet Supplies, Farm Supply, and Farmers Market Supply sections of our market.

Links to the Listings, Booths, Supply and Gift Shop pages are included on appropriate content pages at Farmer's Market Online.

Another option is to register your products with the Google Adwords program, which places context-appropriate advertising on many of the pages at Farmer's Market Online.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Good Weight: The Curious Case of Dangerous Plastic

From sipping water from a bottle after a workout to microwaving a container of leftovers for lunch to giving the baby a bottle of milk, we use plastic every day and usually without a thought about its potential dangers.

Numerous reports suggest, however, that exposure to bisphenol-A -- an organic compound present in many food and beverage containers -- could be damaging to our health.

Is the plastic you are using dangerous?

Based on the type of polymer used, plastics can be divided into seven different groups ranging from the low density polyethylenes used for zip-lock bags to the polystyrenes used for egg cartons. Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is found in polycarbonate plastics — the hard, clear plastics often used for food and beverage containers, in baby bottles, and even as a lining for canned foods.

Trace amounts of BPA can leach from the plastic into the food, and from there into our bodies, according to molecular toxicologist Jeffrey Peters at Penn State. This is worrisome, because scientific studies have shown that lab rats fed or injected with BPA were more likely to have health problems. Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that humans with high BPA levels in their urine were more likely to be obese or diabetic. Should we ditch the plasticware?

“BPA is definitely a concern, but as of right now, the data are not complete enough to establish a cause and effect between the use of these plastics and the onset of disease. We don’t really know how BPA works to cause these health problems. BPA is known to mimic the hormone estrogen, but the exact mechanism is not known.”

Although taking a somewhat skeptical view of the BPA controversy, Peters conceded that the groups most at risk for any potential health risks are babies and young children, who would be exposed to BPA by using plastic baby bottles and consuming canned formula. A report from the National Institutes of Health National Toxicology Program investigated the potential human reproductive and developmental risks posed by exposure to BPA and concluded that it has "some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol-A."

Peters noted that at the level of BPA which most people are exposed to, researchers believe there is only “limited evidence of adverse effects” to the health of adults, but for babies and young children, this is elevated to “some concern for adverse risks.”

This difference in risk is based on a couple of factors:
  • The first is that in proportion to their small body size, babies and young children consume more food and liquid than adults, and so can also take in a higher amount of BPA.
  • The second is that the delicate systems of babies and young children are not able to metabolize BPA as efficiently as adults.
The jury is still out on the level of threat posed by BPA, but the fact remains that many people are exposed to it every day, and the way we use our plasticware may exacerbate the problem. High temperatures increase BPA leaching, which means that microwaving a plastic container of leftovers, or washing a plastic container in hot water, would actually increase the amount of BPA released. Also, the plastic coatings that line cans used for foods and beverages can break down over time, leaching BPA into the can’s contents, particularly if the contents have a high acid content (e.g., canned tomatoes).

What should we do?

Avoiding polycarbonate plastics as much as possible would help to reduce exposure to BPA.

There is a plastic identification code stamped onto the bottom of most containers, making it possible to identify the different types of plastic. Polycarbonates fall into the number 7 group, represented by a triangle with the number 7 inside it, sometimes accompanied by the letters “PC.” Some other, nonpolycarbonate plastics are also categorized into the number 7 group, meaning that not all number 7 plastics will contain BPA; however, this is a good rule of thumb.

As alternatives, many retailers now offer BPA-free plastic water containers and baby bottles.

Some experts also suggest avoiding canned foods, especially those that have been on the shelf for a long time.

“It’s important to remember that there are many potentially dangerous chemicals in our environment which we come into contact with everyday,” noted Peters. “We cannot completely eliminate the risks."

Jeffrey Peters, professor of environmental toxicology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State

Friday, January 9, 2009

FAQ: Are You Interested in Partnerships?

We've been operating online continuously since 1995 and have grown from a dozen subscribers to an email newsletter to more than 1 million annual visitors to our website in 2008.

Our primary "partners" are the 200 or so vendors who lease Booth space and Buy Direct Directory Listings at Farmer's Market Online.

We are also open to the possibility of adding financial partners who have a commitment to sustainable development and can offer management assistance as well as capital.

With its established reputation and solid traffic figures, Farmer's Market Online would obviously be a valuable turn-key web portal on which a diversified producer or retailer could promote and market its product line.

If you are interested in pursuing a partnership with Farmer's Market Online, please contact us with more details about your interest and resources.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Growth Spurts: Compaction's Consequences Measured

Farmers know that agricultural equipment can cause compaction in no-till crop fields, but Ohio State University researchers have found that, depending on soil type, compaction can be severe and persist for years.

Based on 20 years of compaction studies at various locations in Ohio, just one year of harvest traffic on clay soils can reduce corn yields by as much as 40 percent, and the impacts from compaction can persist for as long as eight years. The research, "Axle-Load Impacts on Hydraulic Properties and Corn Yield in No-Till Clay and Silt Loam," has been published in Agronomy Journal.

"This is one of the few long-term compaction studies in the nation. We know that equipment causes compaction, but we wanted to know how long that compaction lasts and how severe it really is," said Rattan Lal, an Ohio State University soil scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "What we've learned is that it's better to take steps to prevent compaction rather than run into the difficulties associated with compaction and struggle to try to eliminate it."

Lal and his colleagues made a one-time distribution with a single axle 20-ton grain cart and a single axle 10-ton grain cart across fields with two types of soils: clay and silt loam, and then measured how long it took for the fields to recover from the effects of compaction. While compaction from clay soils persisted for years, silt loam soils escaped serious compaction problems.

"Unlike silt loam soils, clay soils drain poorly and don't respond to the freezing and thawing process during winter, so compaction tends to persist more and its impact on crop growth and yield is much more severe," said Lal.

Farmers can reduce the compaction hazard through a variety of methods:

• Practicing minimal tillage techniques, such as chisel plowing or subsoiling.

• Relying on soil critters, such as earthworms, to break up the soil through natural processes. The study found that compaction can have an impact on earthworm populations, decreasing numbers 70 percent in clay soils and 50 percent in silt loam soils.

• Growing a cover crop, such as alfalfa, that has a taproot system and can extend deep into the soil. Research Lal conducted in Africa using pigeon peas, a type of taproot plant, showed compaction was eliminated within two years.

• Leaving crop residue in the field. The residue acts as a buffer to dissipate any wheeled traffic.

• Using dual-axle instead of single-axle equipment and wider tires to distribute weight.

• Practicing controlled traffic -- a method whereby all farm equipment is the same width so that traffic is confined to specific paths year after year, and the remainder of the soil is untouched.

• Planting or harvesting crops only under ideal environmental conditions. Lal's compaction research also found that working in fields during rainy conditions increased the severity of compaction.

Lal plans to continue the long-term compaction study, compacting the soil every year and then implementing various control techniques to determine which one would work best.

Compaction can have a number of impacts on the soil and the plants growing in it. Compaction destroys the soil structure and causes erosion by keeping water out. It prevents plant roots from penetrating deep into the soil, and traps carbon dioxide while preventing oxygen from reaching plant roots. The result suffocates the plant either killing the plant or impacting yield performance.

Source: Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

Growth Spurts

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rural Delivery: Dark of Winter

In the dark days that follow the winter solstice, the last of December through the middle of January, I anxiously track the growth of daylight for reassurance that the tide has indeed turned and that winter will eventually give way to the brightening of early spring.

At this latitude of approximately 45 degrees, daylight grows ever so slowly at first, just a minute more each day until the middle of January, when it starts to grow by twos and then by threes at the month's end.

What I always find curious, and faintly disturbing, is that the day does not grow evenly. The sun sets a minute later each day for the week following the solstice, but it rises the same time day after day.

How could this be? If the earth rotates at a constant speed and tilts at an angle to the sun that's roughly the same at dawn as at sunset shouldn't the amount of daylight grow evenly, the same half-minute at sunrise as at dusk?

The answer to these questions is neither simple nor obvious. At this time of year at our latitude the Sun actually takes more than 24 hours to complete its cycle through the heavens. From mid-November to early February a solar day is actually 24 hours and about 30 seconds. Noon on our clocks is not exactly the sundial noon.

And since we do not adjust our clocks for this effect, the Sun's passage moves later and later each day, creating a phenomena known as the Equation of Time. For several weeks, our clock time moves ever so slightly ahead of solar time. Then things even out, and during the weeks bracketing the summer solstice the Equation of Time is ticking in the other direction.

The other factor affecting the times of sunrise and sunset is the Sun's declination, which determines how high the Sun rises in the sky on any given day and the length of time it stays above the horizon. Most of us know the Sun is at its "lowest point in the sky" on the first day of winter, so we expect the Sun to be above the horizon the least amount of time that day.

It is the Equation of Time and the Sun's declination that determine the times of sunrise and sunset, and neither progresses steadily. The speed of change in both varies from day to day and week to week throughout the year.

In late December, the daily rate of change in the Sun's declination is very small (actually zero on the day of the solstice), while the rate of change in the Equation of Time is at its highest. This is why, at this time of year, the time of sunset changes but the time of sunrise stays much the same.

Come mid-January, the Sun's declination is beginning to increase, growing the day at both ends while the effects of the Equation of Time become less and less apparent.

By February, daylight's growth is clearly evident. I can reshelve the almanac now, confident that winter is receding and an orderly progression of the heavens restored.

Rural Delivery

Sunday, January 4, 2009

FAQ: How do you promote new vendors and their products?

New products and vendors are promoted through our Open Market blog and our Twitter page.

Booths may also be linked, where appropriate, to pages on the Open Air Farmers Markets Directory and the Buy Direct Directory.

They may also be linked, indirectly by their featured products, to many of the content pages on the Bulletin Board and one or more of the blogs that we maintain.

Selling Points: Twitter With Your Customers

Twitter, the revolutionary micro-blogging site, offers an opportunity to connect with customers and survey their needs and interest in your products with real-time results.

Once you have set up a Twitter account and established a good number of followers (see the Farmers Market Online Twitter) you can post questions or link to online survey forms or free sample offers.

The key to successful "twittering" is to post updates frequently and respond to direct messages.