Worm Composting, Fast-Response Crop Pickers & More

Reskilling Workshops – Signup Update

There’s still space in many of the upcoming February reskilling workshops, including Justin Leazer’s class on worm composting. As Justin describes it:

“Low/No-Odor Composting; Rapid Composting; Simple Composting that produces far above average quality compost. So, if you want to make more compost, faster, from a wider range of source materials, that is of a higher quality, you want to think about utilizing worms…”

Reskilling Signup List 1.17.12 (PDF)

  • Cooking Winter Soups & Stews – Feb. 4 at 9 a.m. – 3 SPOTS LEFT
  • Making Mittens & Scarves from Old Wool Sweaters – Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. – 4 SPOTS LEFT
  • Home Beer Brewing – Feb. 4 & 18 at 2 p.m. at 156 W. Hamilton Ave. (FULL – Email katherine_watt@hotmail.com to get on wait list)
  • Making Yogurt & Granola – Feb. 5 at 2:30 p.m. – 12 SPOTS LEFT
  • Making Herbal Balms & Salves – Feb. 11 at 9 a.m. – 7 SPOTS LEFT
  • Making Silk Scarves with Salt-Painting Technique – Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. – 6 SPOTS LEFT
  • Building a Cold Frame – Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. – 6 SPOTS LEFT
  • Making Sauerkraut: Vegetable Lactofermentation – Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. – 8 SPOTS LEFT
  • Worm Composting – Feb. 18 at 9 a.m. at Friends Meetinghouse – 15 SPOTS LEFT
  • Making Homemade Pasta & Authentic Red Sauce – Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. at Friends Meetinghouse – 2 SPOTS LEFT

Three ways to register:

PSU Farm-to-Table Update

In conversations over the last few days, it’s become clear that one of the remaining hurdles to more local farmers selling fruits, veggies, meats and other foods to the Penn State residential dining halls is the price differential.

Right now, small-scale farming – organic and sustainable – is more expensive* than large-scale agribusiness (* if ecological costs aren’t counted).

Those price pressures will go into reverse as fuel prices rise – especially against declining family income – raising the costs to produce food with intensive inputs of fertilizer and pesticide, and distribute food long-distances, above the costs to grow food small and local.

But those gears haven’t shifted yet, so we’re kind of in a race against the clock to keep sustainable farmers in business long enough for markets to reach and cross that inflection point.

Laura Young, Market Manager for the North Atherton Farmers Market, provided some feedback to Penn State food service buyers after last week’s meeting.

Information about cost points that you have could also be helpful to us. The food sold at a farmers market tends to be sold at a higher cost than what it is sold for at grocery stores and likely what you are able to get through a huge supplier…Our costs tend to be higher because of our mortgages and the cost of land and the fact that since we are doing things on such a small scale, we get very little price breaks like the big guys do. The other half of this issue is that even though many of us are not certified organic, we are working in a sustainable way which often costs more – ironically. So – this is a hurdle we’ll need to jump over as well as a group – but I don’t think it’s insurmountable.

Lisa Wandel and John Mondock agreed that pricing may be a concern – they can pay a little more for Pennsylvania-preferred, but probably not farmers market prices.

Maybe the place to start building the university’s farm-to-table flow is with crops that farmers would otherwise lose – especially when there’s surplus that their regular customer base can’t absorb. If the choice is between no money because the crop is rotting in the field, and some money from selling to Penn State – which can purchase large amounts on short notice – selling the surplus seems like a better option.

But – it brings up the labor hurdle. If it’s not even worth the farmers’ time to harvest surplus produce because they’re too busy cultivating and harvesting the regular crops that they already have markets for, then the system needs a fast-response volunteer picking team – maybe students and staff – to get into the fields and harvest for the Penn State sale when the opportunities pop up.

The main thing is for farmers interested in working with Penn State to give them a call or send them an email, and keep the conversation going.

Contact Information:

  • Diane Imbruglia – 865-6386; dkb4@psu.edu
  • John Mondock – 865-6386; xjm4@psu.edu
  • Jim Richard – 865-7677; jer5@psu.edu
  • Lisa Wandel – 863-1255; lsw1@psu.edu

Volunteer Gardeners – Raise Crops for State College Area Food Bank

From Mary Watson by way of Kate Butler (PSU Sr. Lecturer of Soil Science) by way of Elizabeth Crisfield:

“My name is Mary Watson. I live in PA Furnace in Centre County and during  the coming Spring/Summer 2012, I would like to grow vegetables for the State  College Food Bank. The food bank is very happy about my decision to try  to produce vegetables for the patrons.

My big problem is that I don’t know how to grow vegetables.  I would  start this year on 1/2 acre, which could be expanded in future years. I am looking for a volunteer farm manager and volunteer workers to make  this project happen.  If you or someone you know would be interested in  giving me a hand with this project, I would be very pleased to hear from  you. You can contact me at MDWatson@AOL.Com.”

Jan. 18 – Transition Town State College Marcellus Forum

Bill Sharp

From Bill Sharp of TTSC:

Transition Towns State College will be holding its second energy forum – Marcellus Shale and Beyond – on January 18, 2012, 7:00-9:00 pm, State College Borough Community Room, 243 South Allen Street, State College.

Dr. Richard Alley and David Yoxtheimer will be back and joining the panel will be Mike C. Welch, Andy Lau and Dr. Susan Stewart, together representing climate, the energy industry, local business and alternative energy.  There were several questions from our audience left from the October meeting, and we will continue to address these and new questions from the audience.  You can find responses to more question from the first forum at Transition Towns Marcellus Shale Forum Q & A. Included in the presentation will be a brief overview of the proposed Transition Towns Energy Action Plan for Centre County – a plan for addressing our dependence upon fossil fuels and the effects of a carbon economy on the environment.

There will be a smaller working meeting, January 25, 7 – 9 pm, Room 220, State College Borough building, 243 South Allen Street, State College, for those who would like to become more actively involved in creating a sustainable future.

Feb. 5 – St. Andrew’s Evensong for Healing of the Earth

Sylvia Neely

From Sylvia Neely of Creation Care Coalition:

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church invites you to a special Evensong dedicated to the healing of the earth Feb. 5 at 4 3:30 pm.  The famine, drought, flooding and shifting of growing seasons caused by climate change hits the world’s poor first and worst. Using our traditional form of evening prayer we will turn prayerful attention to their need and our response. Evensong is a beautiful service of prayers and singing by the congregation and the choir.  A reception sponsored by the Environmental Concerns Committee will follow.

Committee Exploring Center for an Agricultural Economy

From Lisa Marshall (Penns Valley Conservation Association – Slow Money Project; lisa@smartworkco.com), via Steve Fast (Transition Town State College), via Bill Sharp (Transition Town State College), via Addison Hoffman (Howards End CSA):

…The purpose of this email is to a.) introduce you all and b.) to figure out a time when you might all convene here in the wilds of Penns Valley for a meal and a conversation regarding the concept of establishing a Center for an Agricultural Economy in Centre County, similar to the one in Hardwick, VT, with an eye towards supporting and strengthening the farms and the agricultural economy we already have as well as establishing new ones…

Online Petition to Save Rose Valley Lake

Save Rose Valley Lake. Please join those of us in Lycoming County, as we face another challenge to our quality of life and our landscape, and perhaps yours.

Rose Valley Lake is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). For nearly forty years, the 626 acres of lake and surrounding public lands have remained a conservation and recreation jewel, primitive and undeveloped, as intended by the public law and public funds that created it (Project 70 Land Acquisition & Borrowing Act).

The “intent” for Rose Valley Lake, according to a 1972 PFBC document, was to “prevent developments . . . and retain the area in generally primitive conditions.”

In order to facilitate private development, a developer proposes to trade the PFBC one acre of land (generally inaccessible to the public) and $15,000 in exchange for an expanded right-of-way through Rose Valley Lake public lands. This would set a damaging local and state-wide precedent which could affect all public parks, lakes, historic sites, and other facilities funded by Project 70. This includes at least 45 State parks and numerous other conservation, recreation and historic preservation areas, all established through Project 70.

Take Action Today! This is a dangerous precedent! If a developer can get a right of way expanded for development, the gas industry could get a right of way changed for its demands.

Sign the Online Petition, to be presented to the PFBC at its January 30-31 meeting. Visit the website.

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