Fwd: Cooperative Extension is neither!? (long message)

Lucy Goodman-Owsley 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
defense of 
>  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 
>  appreciated!
>  —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
>  CHURCHVILLE—The U.S. Department of Agriculture is about to offer an 
>  official government seal for organic foods. Here’s 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 
>  sulfate—broadly and persistently toxic to humans and animals—and 
>  sulfur—a 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 world’s 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 air—which 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 
>  charity—along 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 it’s 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 crops—or 
>  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 planet’s 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 Avery’s 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 
>  back?
>  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 Earth’s 
>  ecosystem. 
>  Nature does not devise monocultures of any kind—never 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 
>  planet.
>  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
>  Stafford
>  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 didn’t have any cause to fire me,” Dennis Bishop said 
>  yesterday. “I’ve 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 Lance–Star 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 
>  work.
>  “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. 14—and 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 
>  worker’s speech endangered the job, the company or agency or other 
>  employees.
>  Bishop said he isn’t 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 
>  issue.”
>  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 it’s a devastating loss to the community,” Costa said. “I can’t 
>  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.”

Lucy Goodman-Owsley
Boulder Belt CSA
New Paris, OH
Website: http://www.angelfire.com/oh2/boulderbeltcsa
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