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October is Farm to School Month!

As children settle back into school and the growing season comes to a close, it’s time to celebrate the connections between kids and local food. In the past few years, farm to school programs have gained momentum across the U.S. and in the FaHN region. Some exciting local projects include:
A research review published earlier this year in the Journal of School Health showed that school gardens made students more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and even had a positive impact on academics. Another recent study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found that elementary students enrolled in farm to school programs were more open to trying new foods and were more knowledgeable about nutrition and agriculture. Check out the USDA Blog for information on these studies and the forthcoming USDA Farm to School Census.

Visit the National Farm to School Month website for ideas on how you can get involved in the celebration. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #F2SMonth to read about other organizations’ successes and share your own!
Farm Sponsor Spotlight: Peaceful by Nature Farm 

Our farm spotlight this month is Peaceful by Nature Farm, owned and operated by Karen Hoffman and Jack Salo in Norwich, NY.
History of the Farm:
Jack and Karen both had an interest in farming when they moved into their current home, located 7 miles outside of Norwich, in December 2011. The original house and barn were part of a dairy that had been renovated by the previous owner. When they moved in, there were 15 acres of a mix of open hay land and overgrown, former pasture, much of which needed to be reclaimed. Their overall vision is an organic and sustainable model. With the assistance of the USDA's Grassland Reserve Program, Jack and Karen are implementing a multi-year plan to clear brush and install fencing. Perimeter fencing was completed this summer, and a water system will be installed next year.

An important strategy for building soil organic matter and fertility has been to feed round bales outside during cold weather months. The round bales are located on low fertility ground and bales are systematically staged to cover as much ground as possible. This past spring the feeding areas were seeded using a mix of grasses, legumes, radish, etc. The results were encouraging and this practice will continue as a primary strategy for improving the soil and pastures. Using a long-term, low-input system of land reclamation is still in progress but has required less machinery, less energy, and more outdoor time for the sheep and steers, improving the overall health of both land and animal.

In March 2014, Jack and Karen purchased four bull calves from a grass-based dairy that uses seasonal calving and crossbreeding of their cows with different dairy breeds. After an initial diet of milk replacer and hay, they were turned out to pasture with the sheep as part of their strategy to reclaim the pasture, "the sheep ate what the cattle didn't, and vice versa", said Karen. By spring 2015, Jack and Karen needed to move the now much larger steers to a neighbor's pastureland because there was not enough pasture for both the cattle and the sheep to graze at the home farm. Jack says, "With a small home farm, we need to have access to additional pasture. We are fortunate to have neighbors and friends with surplus land who have helped make it possible for us to have sufficient grazing land."

Peaceful by Nature Farm currently has 44 ewes and lambs, 4 steers, and a flock of 20 heritage-breed turkeys. Karen has used networking to build an initial customer base. They sell lamb, turkey, and beef--the turkey is processed on their farm, and they use Larry's Custom and Meats in Hartwick, NY to process the lamb and beef.

Photo on left: Fallow land at time of purchase. Photo on right: Reclaimed pasture.

Both Jack and Karen have full-time jobs off the farm. On how they balance their time between their occupations and farm work: 
They have designed their farm to be low-input. Their sheep and steers are 95-98% grass-fed and grass-finished. Rotational grazing allows for pasture recovery and manages parasites that can affect sheep health. The sheep and steers are moved onto new grass every 3-7 days. Morning and evening chores are completed daily, and many weekends are devoted to farm maintenance and new projects. "We do part-time farming because we enjoy working together, learning together and seeing the positive changes that are taking place," Jack explains. "It's a way of life, a way to contribute to the local food economy and, to be close to the land and natural processes."

Challenges faced as beginning farmers, and advice for new/beginner farmers:
When they purchased the land, there was no existing fence in the pastures. They depended on temporary fencing and solar fence chargers. In early spring 2012, their 5 Dorset sheep were grazed on the lawn and 1.5 acres of hay land. They bought their first ram and had lambs the following fall. Using a slow and thoughtful process of getting set up and building fences allowed for pasture reclamation as animal numbers increased.

Karen's advice, therefore, is to "Start small and figure out what you want before investing. Make your plan, learn your land and its needs. Think about your time, labor, and costs, and go slow."

Jack adds that a challenge is balancing jobs and family with a farm start-up. Peaceful by Nature Farms has operated without the use of a tractor, which cuts costs, but can increase time and labor needs.  They are currently shopping for a tractor after struggling last winter to move round bales onto pasture with muscle power only.

A tension also exists between moving forward in farm development and responsibly managing livestock, doing daily chores, etc.  A balance has to be struck between the two. 

Thoughts on the regional food system and local food community: 
In Chenango County, Karen has noticed a cyclical pattern in the success of the local food economy. Several years ago, there was a growth in the "Know your food, know your farmer" movement, which has seemed to wane in recent years. Chenango County was also the birthplace of Chenango Bounty which provided weekly deliveries of locally produced foods (Note: Chenango Bounty is no longer in operation). Jack notes that these fluctuations and "false starts" are likely tied to the economic and demographic realities of Chenango County. Viable and growing local food economies typically require both sufficient population and incomes to support the effort, hence a regional approach may be most effective.

Dairy farming and livestock are the foundation of Chenango County agriculture and create opportunities for direct farm purchases of dairy and meat products. Farm-to-consumer purchasing is an important part of the local food connection, particularly in rural areas. "The region, climate and land base aligns well with grass based agriculture. There's an opportunity for consumers to support local dairy and livestock farmers who want to direct-market thei
r grass-based products, which helps them to be economically viable and sustainable over the long term, which gives hope for the future," Jack explains.

What else is needed to strengthen the local food community? An ability to access food at the local and regional level. The model is currently operating on an income-based system, leaving a large portion of the population without access to fresh, locally produced food.

Ways that members & sponsors and FaHN can benefit from one another:
The Food & Health Network not only includes different types and sizes of farms, but many other aspects of the regional food economy are also involved. Karen explains that she learned how to better market products because of her involvement in FaHN meetings and interactions with people in food service. A cross-sector approach and understanding helped her develop a product base. “You have to provide convenience to the customer to market your products. This is a valuable part of being involved with the Food & Health Network.”

FaHN should serve its members—anyone who farms or wants to do direct sales. “FaHN promotes farmers and food-related businesses that have a role in the local food economy. Direct connections should be made between these two,” Jack explains. FaHN can help farmers to be successful while also connecting consumers to local products. Since FaHN has a regional focus, it can play an important role in removing the extreme definitions of "local" as being only within a county or a specific radius from where one lives or works. Looking at the region, rather than just one’s immediate surroundings, is important for direct procurement from farms and will give consumers greater opportunity to invest in the regional food economy.
For information about Peaceful by Nature Farm products:
Call: (607)-316-0229

Cultivating Food Justice: A Conversation on Closing the Hunger Gap


A few weeks ago, our Coordinator Erin Summerlee attended the 2015 Closing the Hunger Gap Conference in Portland, OR, with two friends from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier: Randi Quackenbush, Advocacy and Education Manager, and Lyndsey Lyman, Agency Outreach Coordinator. We sat down with them to learn about the innovative organizations and programs they encountered at the conference and how they plan to incorporate these new ideas into their work.

Visit our Food for Thought blog to read the full interview.
Check out the Rural Health Network's monthly e-newsletter for September news and updates, including articles on FaHN!
October 9, 2015
Friday, 6-8:30pm
Taste of Tioga: A Celebration of Local Food
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County

Tickets available online or at the CCE Tioga office, 56 Main St, Owego

Learn more here.
October 12, 2015
Monday, Noon-1pm
Webinar: Upstate Livestock Farm Reaches NYC Restaurants 
Cornell Small Farms Program

Learn about how Stephen Winkler and other livestock farmers work with Mosner Family Brands to reach restaurants and retail stores.

October 10, 2015
Saturday, 10-11am

October 22, 2015
Thursday, 6:30-7:30pm
Skill Share at the Ithaca Community Garden
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

October 10: Planting Garlic and Seed Saving
October 22: Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter
Learn more here.
October 19, 2015
Monday, Noon-1pm
Webinar: Selling Produce to Groceries
Cornell Small Farms Program

Dan Kent will share how he made connections with his wholesale customers, and describe any changes he made in infrastructure, packaging, labeling, invoicing and production to meet the needs of his wholesale clients.

Register here.
October 21, 2015
Wednesday, 7pm
Develop and Explore your Farm or Food Business Idea
Groundswell Center

Thinking of starting your own business in farming or food, need to bounce your ideas off others? Join Groundswell, Alternatives FCU, and Cornell Coop Extension for a chance to "workshop" your business ideas!

Register by emailing
October 22, 2015
Thursday, 2-4pm
Food System Assessment Forum--Delaware County
Delaware Bounty, Delhi, NY

Join FaHN in Delhi for an exciting discussion on economic vitality in South Central New York, co-hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County.This meeting is part of a series of discussions around the region to gather community input. To learn more about the Food System Assessment and available data, visit the FaHN website here.

RSVP to FaHN Coordinator Erin Summerlee at or 607-692-7669.
Save the Date! 
American Farmland Trust Harvesting Opportunities Conference 
November 4, 2015
Albany, NY  

Click here for more information. 

NESAWG It Takes a Region Conference 
November 13-14, 2015
Saratoga Springs, NY

Click here for more information. 
Regional Food System Assessment: Buying Local

FaHN values data-driven approaches to measure progress in agriculture and food access within our 8-county region. The Regional Food System Assessment (FSA) gathers relevant data, information and resources that further FaHN's vision for a more vibrant regional food system. The 2015-2016 FSA update will include indicators from previous reports, with particular focus on economic vitality, environmental health, and farm to consumer connections.

Buying Local is the first in a series of updates of the FSA. The publication will highlight the important role direct sales play in strengthening the local economy. There are various avenues that foster farm to consumer connections, such as farmers' markets, CSAs, farmstands, and u-pick farms.

Look for the Buying Local publication later this month and future publications in the FSA series! The 2011, 2012, and 2014 updates of the Food System Assessment can be found here.

Creating Healthy Schools & Communities Grant Awarded

The Broome County Health Department announced the award of the Creating Healthy Schools & Communities Grant for Broome County, through the New York State Department of Health. The grant brings together partners including Broome Tioga BOCES, Binghamton, Deposit, Harpursville and Johnson City School Districts, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, and the Food & Health Network to promote health in schools and the wider community.

The grant will build capacity for increasing access to healthy food in schools, in addition to wellness programs to address the issue of childhood obesity that is prevalent in Broome County. This $1.25M five-year grant initiative will create health policy changes that can be sustained in the long-term through community partnerships. FaHN will work with institutions and community organizations to adopt healthy food procurement policies. Learn more here.

Whole Kids Foundation
2016 School Garden Grants
Application open until October 31, 2015
Lean more here.

Community Foundation of SCNY 
Small Grants due November 15
Learn more here.

Northesast SARE
Partnership Grants, due October 6, 2015
Farmer Grants, due November 12, 2015
Learn more here.

New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets
2015 Farm to School Grant due October 19, 2015
Learn more here.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize due November 12, 2015.
Learn more here.

New York Farm Viability Institute
Grants for Farmer-Relevant Projects due November 15, 2015.
Learn more here.

Grants for farmers transitioning to pasture-based systems due November 3, 2015.
Learn more here.

Free one-on-one technical assistance and resources to organizations interested in applying for the USDA Community Food Projects Grant Program

Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program
Supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers by participating in SNAP. 
Learn more here.

There is still time to take advantage of a special 2015 sponsorship challenge for farm and food businesses! When you contribute $25 as a FaHN Sponsor, an additional $75 will be matched by an anonymous donor to reach the Seedling sponsor level.

Sponsor benefits:
  • Promote your Farm or Food Business through a Sponsor listing in FaHN publications and media (FaHN Membership Directory, website, e-newsletter, blog and Food System Assessment).  
  • Invitation to annual recognition event featuring local food. 
  • Framed Certificate of Appreciation
  • Speakers & technical assistance available for your food and health related events.
  • Opportunity to network, collaborate, and request support for local food and health related initiatives.
You can learn more by visiting our website here, or viewing the sponsor form here. We are also inviting new individual and organizational members. 

For more informati
on on how to take advantage of this opportunity contact:
Erin Summerlee, FaHN Coordinator
607-692-7669 or fahncoordinator

AmeriCorps Positions promoting Food Access & Health!
Fall positions available with a range of organizations.
View positions and apply: Rural Health Service Corps website.

Organizational Members

Broome-Tioga BOCES Food Service
Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE) 
Chenango County Health Department
Cornell Cooperative Extension Broome County
Cornell Cooperative Extension Tioga County
Delaware Opportunities Inc.
Family Enrichment Network
Food Bank of the Southern Tier
Hatherleigh Foundation
Healthy Lifestyles Coalition (United Way)
Rural Health Network of South Central New York
Seven Valleys Health Coalition
Tioga County Hunger Coalition 
Tioga Opportunities
Tompkins County Food Distribution Network
VINES: Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments
Individual Members

Susan Adair
Diane Albrecht
Richard Andrus
Donna Bates
Mark Bordeau
Christina Boyd
Ray Denniston
Nancy Eckstrom
Matthew Griffin
Kathleen Horner
Sonia Janiszewski
Kevin Millar
Ann Moring
Peaceful By Nature Farm
Jeffrey Piestrak
Tony Preus
Amy Shapiro
Rose Zonetti

Diane Albrecht
Greg Albrecht & Victoria Zeppelin
Connie Barnes
Susan Beaudoin
Elizabeth Bossong
Care Manage for All, LLC
Closer to the Heart Farms 
Diane Crews
Ray Denniston
Nancy Eckstrom
Engelbert Farms, LLC
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield

Fidelis Care New York
Galaxy Brewing Company

Johan Jelsma
Old Barn Hollow Farm Market
Jeffrey Piestrak
Charles and Mary Place
John and Linda Roush
Regional Access
Jack Salo
Linda Seeger
Slope Farms, LLC.
Doris Summerlee
Lauren Tonti
United HealthCare
United Health Services (UHS)
Shawn Yetter
Food & Health Network Facebook Page
Food & Health Network Facebook Page
Food & Health Network Website
Food & Health Network Website