Celebrity Chefs Reunite for OFRF 25th Anniversary Luncheon at Expo West

Chef Donna Prizgintas, who presided over OFRF’s very first Annual Luncheon at the Natural Products Expo West trade show in 1998, is re-uniting with longtime colleague du cuisine Chris Blobaum to help celebrate our Foundation’s 25th anniversary year.

This year’s luncheon, the 18th we have celebrated at Expo West, takes place March 5th 2015, outdoors on the sunny Grand Plaza of the Anaheim Convention Center.

Chef Donna, a 15-year volunteer for OFRF, will be flying in from her home in Ames, Iowa, where she co-hosts the DonnaLonna Kitchen cooking show on public radio, and creates sumptuous all-organic menus for special events. Chef Chris, a nationally-known executive chef who has volunteered in the Expo West kitchen for about 14 years, will be making the trip from Atlanta, where he currently runs ten restaurants in five upscale hotels.

Karen Adler's picture

More Broccoli, Please!

Organic broccoli is in high demand these days, and a recent market survey by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association revealed that broccoli tops the list of organic produce items that are in short supply in the Southeast. Broccoli can be produced most anywhere in the spring and fall, but summer production is limited to cooler growing areas. As it turns out, Western North Carolina provides this type of climate due to its Appalachian Mountain terrain. Researcher Jeanine Davis and her team of farmer and research collaborators will soon be starting Phase II of a three-year OFRF/Seed Matters-funded project, Participatory Screening of Broccoli Varieties for Summer Production in Organic Systems in Western North Carolina, which will feature on-farm trials.

Developing Nutritious and Delicious Organic Barley!

Celebrity chefs have not generally featured prominently in the organic research that OFRF supports. But Kevin Murphy, the principal researcher on one of our most recently funded projects, Developing Nutritious and Delicious Varieties for the Pacific Northwest, is changing that. And his approach could land the results of this research on the table of the First Family! In order to test the “delicious” part of his endeavors, Dr. Murphy has enlisted the support of Chef Bill Yosses, White House Executive Pastry Chef, as well as Chef Dan Barber, renowned executive chef and co-owner of Blue Hill Restaurant in New York; and Chef Chad Robertson, co-owner of Tartine Bakery and Bar Tartine in San Francisco.

Barley, which is an important grain crop, is used predominantly for animal feed and malting, but is also an important part of human diets. Barley provides a number of health and nutrition benefits, including beta-glucans, which have been shown to contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations. This led the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow barley to be labeled as a heart-healthy food that reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. However, most of the barley that is grown domestically for human food comes from hulled feed barley varieties. It is then dehulled during pearling, a process that removes the nutritionally rich bran, which contains tocols, phenols, mineral nutrients, and other beneficial compounds. These varieties also generally contain much lower beta-glucan contents. Developing nutritionally dense and hulless varieties will eliminate the need for the aggressive (and not inexpensive) process of dehulling/pearling, and will maximize the tremendous potential nutritional benefits of barley.

USDA Targets Citrus Greening with Tree Removal, Replacement Funds

Florida organic citrus growers plagued by an epidemic of Citrus Greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), received a boost from the federal government last week with an expansion of the agency’s Tree Assistance Program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new funding to share the costs of removing diseased trees and replanting with healthy stock. The funding is currently available only in Florida, where the bacterial disease has spread to an estimated 99 percent of the state’s citrus groves. The tree-replacement funds will be available to all Florida farmers, including organic growers, who farm about 3,000 acres in the sunshine state.

The tree replacement aid comes on the heels of $31.5 million in USDA funding allocated this year for research and extension service projects combating HLB, which is inflicting serious damage in Florida and has established toeholds as far afield as Texas and California. Some of those federal funds are supporting research of interest to organic growers.

“Organic growers qualify (for the tree replacement funds) just the same as conventional growers,” said Ben McLean, vice-president of Uncle Matt’s Organics, the largest organic citrus grower in Florida. “And we’ve found the USDA has been really encouraging regarding research funding for organic disease control methods.”

Organic Industry Mulls Response to FDA’s Revised Draft Food Safety Rules

The organic industry breathed a sigh of relief last week when the FDA released revised food safety rules that appear to take organic growers’ needs into consideration. But the devil is in the details, and the rule revisions posted on the FDA website run about 600 pages long.

While the summary information on the new draft rules appears promising, organic advocates and analysts have spent the past week digging through those devilish details, working to pin down the real-world effects the new rules could impose.

The good news for organic farmers is the agency’s unambiguous statement that proposed rules on the use of manure as fertilizer will be placed on hold indefinitely, and that farmers may continue to comply with requirements of the federal National Organic Program.

“The number one concern of many organic farmers was the conflict between the FDA’s proposed manure regulations and the NOP compost standards,” said Brise Tencer, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. “The use of compost is a key tool in organic, and this revision has fixed that problem for the time being.”

But the revised rules on other controversial issues, such as proposed water testing protocols, are less clear.