Todd Stadtlander, Produce Manager at Food Conspiracy Co-op, AZ

photo_(1).jpgTodd Stadtlander has worked at the Food Conspiracy Co-op in Tuscon, AZ for 9 years, 7 of those as Produce Manager. When he started at the Co-op, he was pretty green about co-ops, sustainable production practices, and GMOs despite his 12 years of experience at a large chain grocery store. 

Below, Todd describes how the Co-op and its members have changed his relationship to food, why Certified Naturally Grown is a good fit for the local growers he works with, and what's so dang special about co-ops. 

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Juan Raygoza, Terra Preta Farm, TX

TX.TerraPreta.Family_(1).jpgMeet Juan Raygoza. He and his family have worked hard to create Terra Preta Farm in deep southern Texas - -balancing other jobs and staying up to the wee hours of Saturday morning prepping for market. 

And their hard work is paying off.  Besides building a loyal customer base and grown some fine produce, this year they took a big step towards fulfilling their farm dream and are growing on land they can call their own. 

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Full Earth Farm, Katie Harris & Aaron Suko, FL


Aaron and Katie, the dynamic duo behind Full Earth Farm, both explored other professions before farming. The list includes barista, baker, bike mechanic, animator, photographer and I even skipped some!

Then five years ago they took a leap together and started farming land in Katie's family. From the looks of it - their smiles, their gorgeous veggies and their happy customers - things are going pretty well.  

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Moon Dog Farms, Alex McPhail and Casey McAuliffe, TX

MoonDog.TX.(C)rachaelbelshaw.Casey_Alex-ed.jpgJust look at those shiny, happy faces. That's Alex McPhail on the left and Casey McAuliffe on the right. Their farming story has taken them clear across the country, from Texas to New York and back with a detour in North Carolina along the way.

Casey took a break from the blazing sun and swarms of mosquitoes to tell us a bit of their story. The pair's passion for farming and building a better future shines through in all her responses. Just as clear is their sense of humor about that crazy thing called farming.

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Michele Gillman, Moss Hill Farm and CNG Network Organizer, GA

GA.MicheleGillman.WashStation.jpgMichele Gillman's winning smile gives a peppy impression, but that's not all there is to the story - she has some serious grit too. 

She left her sales and marketing business to get involved in sustainable ag after her husband had a serious cycling incident, and healthy local food played a big part in his recovery. Now she manages the harvests and wrangles volunteers at Moss Hill Farm (CNG) in north Georgia, and organizes events that bring farmers together to learn and build relationships. 

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Denison Farm, Brian and Justine Denison, NY

NY.Denison.Brian_and_Justine-400_with_fork_and_computer_jpg.jpgBrian and Justine didn't always use natural practices. They started out growing conventionally in Maine for wholesale in Boston. 

But after Brian became seriously ill, they made the decision to move off their conventional farm, buy a new one without a history of pesticide use, and use natural practices moving forward. 

They've been at their new place in the Hudson Valley for nearly 10 years now, and while Justine says it still feels a little new, it's clear that they are pretty well established in the community. Each week they serve two farmers markets, whole sale accounts, and a whopping 500 member CSA!

We were lucky enough to nab Justine for a brief interview. 

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The Great Debate on Certification

NOFA_circle.pngI don’t think of myself as a debater but on Saturday night at the NOFA Summer Conference in Amherst, MA, I found it difficult to stay seated.

The topic was “Is organic certification right for you?” and the debaters were four farmers – two certified organic, one Certified Naturally Grown, and one not certified. One of the organic farmers was Atina Diffley, the conference keynote speaker, renowned activist, and author of the memoir “Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works”.

The event organizers wanted to explore the reasons why many young farmers are choosing not to go through the USDA organic certification process, and set it up as two “pro” positions (the certified organic farmers) and two “con” positions (the CNG and non-certified farmer). 

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Apiary advisory council member Jon Zawislak shares about bees

JZ-with-friends_2013_225.jpgThis week on the blog we're excited to introduce you to Jon Zawislak.

As the bee specialist with University of Arkansas Extension, Jon is the go-to guy for anything bee-related in the state. Whether it's technical info for commercial apiarists, general info for the public, or hands-on training for beginning beekeepers, he can help!

Not a CNG member himself, he is an advocate for natural practices and we are delighted to count him as a member of our Apiary Advisory Council!

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Salt River Garlic, Debra Green, KY

KY.SaltRiver.estonian_red_curing.jpgI've always loved veggie varietal names, but garlic breeders must take the prize. I mean, Estonian Red? Georgian Crystal? Can it get much better than a garlic varietal named Music?! 

And those are just some of the unique, heirloom varieties that Debra Green and Tom Scanlan grow at Salt River Garlic in north central Kentucky. Debra tells us their town of Taylorsville, is "right along the Bourbon Trail, by the way, in case you get the urge to drop in and say hello!"

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Yokna Bottoms Farm, Doug Davis, MS

MS.Yokna.DougDavis.jpgDoug Davis is a college professor, a farmer, and a self-proclaimed sodbuster.

What's a sodbuster you ask? This is how he explains it in his words: 

Sod.bust.ers (n.) Gardeners, farmers, lovers, dreamers, planters, ranchers, builders and breeders, sons and daughters of the soil, pickers and plowers, sowers and growers…

Though Doug has been busting sod since he was young, it wasn't until 2007 that he got the chance to do it on a grander scale. That's the year he purchased some prime bottomland in northern Mississippi hill country and founded Yokna(patawpha) Bottoms Farm. 

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