Fwd: Cooperative Extension is neither!? (long message)
goodows at excite.com
Mon Oct 30 06:28:35 EST 2000
I got this from a CSA list I subscribe too. It's long but worth reading
> Fellow CSA farmers,
> Recently, a rather disturbing turn of events has occured in my community
> Fredericksburg, Virginia. (I've pasted pertinent newspaper articles from
> Free Lance-Star below) To give you an introduction, our local
> Extension Horticultural Agent was fired for what he believes was a letter
> the editor written in response to a Dennis Avery opinion editiorial.
> Below, Mr. Avery's op-ed appears first, then Mr. Bishop's repsonse,
> by the news article concerning his job termination.
> The ACLU is representing Mr. Bishop in a lawsuit against Virginia Tech.
> institute that serves as Extension 'headquarters' in our state) in
> his civil rights. Our CSA wishes to address this case from a pro-organic
> standpoint. Many of us feel that the Virginia Cooperative Extension
> does little (or nothing) to promote organic farming and gardening. I know
> I've often been referred to by area extension agents as"one of those
> organic farmers" and I've been, for the most part, blacklisted for
> out against Bt corn.
> I'm curious to hear how other states' Extension Services address the
> of organic agriculture. What have your experiences been as CSA/organic
> growers? Is Virginia just behind the times (and bound to chemical
> for funding) or is this a national problem? Your input would be greatly
> Heid R. Lewis
> Community Supported Organic Farm Coalition
> Fredericksburg, Virginia
> FreeLance-Star, August 13, 2000
> (Op-ed by Dennis T. Avery)
> Organic food for thought: Natural food not always a safer choice
> CHURCHVILLEThe U.S. Department of Agriculture is about to offer an
> official government seal for organic foods. Heres my suggestion for the
> warning label:
> Even though you are being asked to pay a far-higher price for this
> organic food, it has absolutely no demonstrated nutritional advantages
> over mainstream foods.
> This organic food was probably fertilized with animal manure containing
> dangerous pathogens. Be especially worried about the virulent E. coli
> O157:H7, found mainly in cattle manure. The manure may have been
> composted, but the recommended interval between application and harvest
> is 38 months for sewage sludge and 60 days for animal sludge.
> This organic food was grown with all-natural pesticides, such as copper
> sulfatebroadly and persistently toxic to humans and animalsand
> sulfura persistent soil contaminant.
> The natural pyrethrum insecticide required African women and children
> to hand-pick millions of toxic pyrethrum flowers to earn pitiful wages
> under the fierce African sun.
> The limited ability of organic farmers to protect their crops from
> fungi, rodent, and insect damage means this organic food is more likely
> to be infested with dangerous natural toxins such as aflatoxin, ergot,
> and fumonisin. Aflatoxin is one of the most violent cancer agents ever
> discovered. Ergot is hallucinogenic, and at high levels of exposure can
> cause internal gangrene.
> This organic food is a threat to the worlds wildlife. It took nearly
> twice as much land to grow it as mainstream foods, mainly because
> organic farmers refuse to fertilize their crops with nitrogen taken from
> the airwhich is 78 percent nitrogen.
> In short, organic foods offer more danger for both your family and the
> environment. You should purchase mainstream foods instead, and achieve a
> higher level of self-worth by donating the difference to a good local
> charityalong with some of your time.
> What are my sources for this surprising information? Kathy di Matteo,
> executive director of the U.S. Organic Trade Association, was asked by
> John Stossel of ABC News on 20/20 this February whether organic food
> was more nutritious. Her answer: Organic food is as nutritious as any
> other. (She said it twice.) She also said that food safety is not what
> organic food standards are about.
> Animal manure poses a risk to food crops, even if its composted,
> according to a letter from Dr. Robert Tauxe of the U.S. Centers for
> Disease Control, published in the Journal of the American Medical
> Association on June 4, 1997.
> The USDA says America has about one-fourth of the organic nitrogen that
> would be needed to grow our current crop output organically. The rest of
> the world has an even greater shortage of organic nitrogen.
> How would organic farmers replace 80 million tons of chemical nitrogen?
> By clearing millions of acres of forest to grow green manure cropsor
> to pasture more cattle, so we could put more dangerous pathogens on our
> food crops.
> If the whole world were to grow its food organically, my peer-reviewed
> estimates say we might need 36 million miles of cropland by 2050,
> instead of the 6 million square miles we currently use.
> In that case, we would have no room on the planet for wildlife habitat.
> Even with biotech crops, the 6 million square acres we now plant might
> still not be enough in 2050.
> So for your own safety and the planets as well, think before you eat.
> Free Lance-Star 8/31/2000
> Letters To The Editor
> Traditional farming is unnatural, a rape of the Earth
> Being neither an organic farmer nor a student of organic agriculture, I
> feel unqualified to respond to the specifics of Dennis Averys recent
> bashing of organic farming [Natural food not always a safer choice,
> Aug. 13]. However, I am a horticulturist and I am greatly concerned
> about the doomed road that traditional, chemical agriculture has taken
> in its relationship with the Earth.
> Traditional, chemical agriculture is doomed because it has plowed
> through the Earth without giving thought to where it is going; and it is
> doomed because it has used and raped the Earth unceasingly without
> giving back. How long can any relationship endure which gives little
> thought to its course and uses and abuses the other party without giving
> Nature knows what is best for herself; therefore, every honest
> discussion of this topic should start by accepting that all agricultural
> practices are unnatural and are detrimental to the health of the Earths
> Nature does not devise monocultures of any kindnever planting anything
> in a row. If nature had her way, there would be no vineyards, no
> orchards and certainly no corn fields, but there would be manure,
> compost and many natural toxins. These elements are all part of a system
> that renews the Earth and provides the checks and balances of a healthy
> Therefore, despite my ignorance, I take the side of the organic growers.
> They give greater thought to maintaining a healthy planet; for example,
> they practice the use of green-manure crops to renew the soil. Organic
> growers give thought to where they are going and they give back.
> Dennis G. Bishop
> By KELBY HARTSON
> The Free Lance-Star , September 14, 2000
> An agricultural extension agent in Stafford County believes he lost his
> job Monday for exercising his free-speech rights.
> I know they didnt have any cause to fire me, Dennis Bishop said
> yesterday. Ive worked very hard to build trust and build good
> community programs.
> Bishop, who had served as the Virginia Cooperative Extension agent for
> environmental horticulture in Stafford for the past year, wrote a letter
> to The Free LanceStar about organic farming. In the letter, published
> Aug. 31, he criticized traditional agricultural methods as unnatural"
> and having raped the earth unceasingly without giving back.
> Bishop said he wrote the letter as a private citizen. It did not
> identify him as an extension agent.
> He said he received a phone message at home Sunday night from Beverly
> Butterfield, director of the Northern Virginia district that includes
> Stafford. She asked him to come to her office in Warrenton Monday
> morning instead of reporting to work in Stafford, he said.
> The first sentence was basically, We have decided you are not a good
> fit. You are being reassigned to a six-month position out of your
> home, Bishop said.
> He said the six-month position will end in March, leaving him without
> I was shocked, he said. I asked what the reasons were. She said, A
> variety of reasons. I said, I deserve a better answer than that.
> Bishop said when he asked whether it was because of his letter,
> Butterfield told him she could not comment.
> They took my keys and told me not to go back to work, he said.
> Bishop said he received his annual performance review on Aug. 14and it
> was positive.
> He provided a copy of his performance review, which complimented him on
> several of the programs he initiated in his year in the position.
> You represent Virginia Cooperative Extension well: professional in your
> actions with staff, volunteer and the public, the evaluation states.
> You display initiative in getting the program well established.
> It listed three suggestions, with one being to continue to expand
> your efforts.
> Federal law protects the free-speech rights of both private and public
> employees. There are exceptions, such as if the employer can prove the
> workers speech endangered the job, the company or agency or other
> Bishop said he isnt sure what the temporary position entails. He said
> has not decided whether he will sue over the matter.
> The extension program is run by Virginia Tech, but salaries are funded
> by area localities.
> Butterfield said yesterday that she could not discuss the issue.
> This is a personnel issue and I really cannot comment on it, she said.
> We are not at liberty to disclose the details of this particular
> She suggested contacting David Barrett, director of the Virginia
> Cooperative Extension program. A message left at his office yesterday
> was not returned.
> In the letter informing Bishop of his switch to the six-month position,
> Butterfield wrote that Bishop will continue to receive the same salary.
> But he warned Bishop that he is expected to represent extension and the
> university in a professional manner. Failure to abide by policies and
> procedures could result in termination for cause at any time during the
> six-month period.
> Southern Stafford gardener Mike Costa said he deals with Bishop through
> various local activities. He was appalled when he learned that Bishop
> was removed from his position.
> Costa said Bishop was integral to several local programs. Bishop
> coordinates gardening classes. He also was key in launching the new
> First Saturdays program, in which a different Fredericksburg-area garden
> is featured and toured each month.
> Bishop also worked with the Downtown Greens Community Gardens program.
> Dennis is a tireless worker, Costa said. He was instrumental in
> putting together this First Saturday program. That program has been an
> unmitigated success.
> Costa said he cannot imagine any justification for removing Bishop, and
> believes the letter was the cause.
> Somebody speaks up about organic gardening, they get summarily fired,
> he said.
> Costa said it is ironic if Bishop is in trouble over controversial
> speech. He said Bishop has a mild-mannered and temperate style.
> I think its a devastating loss to the community, Costa said. I cant
> think of anybody who would have a bad word to say about him. I think
> there are folks in the community here who are not planning on letting
> this slide by.
Boulder Belt CSA
New Paris, OH
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