Cooperative Extension is neither!? (long message)

Jill Taylor Bussiere jdt at itol.com
Mon Oct 30 07:35:04 EST 2000


It has been my experience that extension agents are promoters of the
"conventional" methods.  They seem to promote things such as efficiency, new
technology, and the newest techniques that come out of the university with
which they are affiliated.  That means GE seeds, Roundup, etc.  Not many
alternative agricultural techniques are promoted.

And yet, the ag agents that I have known care about the farms in the area as
well.

The farmers that I know of that have switched to organic dairies or
vegetable production or rotational grazing have learned what they needed to
know by reading, and through alternative organizations.

                        Jill
----- Original Message -----
From: Lucy Goodman-Owsley <goodows at excite.com>
To: market farming <market-farming at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Cc: <gejo at firstbankconnect.com>; <ChrisJ40 at aol.com>;
<dayjm at miavx1.acs.muohio.edu>; <IDONKEYOTI at aol.com>;
<organicgrowing at egroups.com>; <miller_farm at earlham.edu>;
<market-farming at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2000 5:28 AM
Subject: Fwd: Cooperative Extension is neither!? (long message)


>
> I got this from a CSA list I subscribe too. It's long but worth reading
> Lucy
>
>
>
> >  Fellow CSA farmers,
> >  Recently, a rather disturbing turn of events has occured in my
community
> of
> >  Fredericksburg, Virginia. (I've pasted pertinent newspaper articles
from
> the
> >  Free Lance-Star  below) To give you an introduction, our local
> Cooperative
> >  Extension Horticultural Agent was fired for what he believes was a
letter
> to
> >  the editor written in response to a Dennis Avery opinion editiorial.
> >  Below, Mr. Avery's op-ed appears first, then Mr. Bishop's repsonse,
> followed
> >  by the news article concerning his job termination.
> >
> >  The ACLU is representing Mr. Bishop in a lawsuit against Virginia Tech.
> (the
> >  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
> Service
> >  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
> crazy
> >  organic farmers" and I've been, for the most part, blacklisted for
> speaking
> >  out against Bt corn.
> >
> >  I'm curious to hear how other states'  Extension Services address the
> issue
> >  of organic agriculture. What have your experiences been as CSA/organic
> >  growers? Is Virginia just behind the times (and bound to chemical
> companies
> >  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
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >  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 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
> Organic Farming and Gardening Forum:
> http://www.InsideTheWeb.com/mbs.cgi/mb135705
> Want Social Change? Join a CSA!
>
>
>
>
>
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