League of Women

The granddaughters of Lucia Beer enjoy her organic garden in Angelica this summer. Beer, a member of the Cattaraugus Allegany County League of Women Voters, helped coordinate the group’s effort to connect the community with a virtual organic gardening conference Jan. 16-23.

Many in the community likely associate the Cattaraugus Allegany County League of Women Voters strictly with the political world, but few may know the group also has an educational component.

The group’s educational and advocacy mission will be shared with area residents Jan. 16-23 when all are invited to attend a virtual conference on organic gardening conducted by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of New York. The conference will focus on creating a healthier environment and healthier living.

“We think this might be the beginning of a different type of event from our League, at least for the foreseeable future,” said Margie McIntosh, president of the League.

Furthermore, she noted the League has determined that health and environmental issues are two areas of priority for the local chapter’s goal of education and advocacy in its local communities.

Lucia Beer, co-chair of the League’s Climate Change committee, added, “Olean is already a success here — as I drove through your town for the first time after the traffic rearrangements and saw all the plantings, I was so impressed.

“Small things like this can have such an impact,” she added.

Beer, a resident of Angelica, is an organic gardener and has been a member of the League since it was organized locally approximately four years ago. She also helped coordinate efforts to make the NOFA conference available to area residents. Those interested in registering for the conference may do so by visiting www.nofany.org website. Individuals may also sign up for the NOFA newsletter by email or follow them on Facebook.

Beer said she interviewed Bethany Wallis, the new executive director of NOFA of NY, to discuss the upcoming conference and importance of organic gardening. The transcript of the interview, titled “Making Our World a Better Place from Our Own Backyards” is available on the League’s Facebook page. The session with Wallis had been intended to be part of an in-person panel discussion in the fall of 2020, but had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

Wallis, who was raised on a pasture-based dairy farm, earned an associate’s degree in Agricultural Business from SUNY Morrisville and a bachelor’s degree in Dairy Science from Cornell University. She said NOFA’s goal is to promote land stewardship, organic food production and local marketing through demonstration and education.

Wallis said that while the public’s concern over the food supply last spring was unfounded, the pandemic “certainly brought to light the fragility of our consolidated food system.

“This spring we saw the dairy industry being forced to dump milk while store shelves were empty due to the inability to change processing capabilities,” Wallis stated in her interview with Beer. “We bring consumer and farmer together to make high-quality food available to all people,” she added. “Homeowners can have a huge impact supporting eco-friendly landscapes and reducing the harmful effects of chemicals in their own backyards.”

Wallis noted that many small-scale producers are direct marketing to consumers, and being certified organic allows them to share with their customers the production practices they are using. She said the certified organic label provides consumers assurance that the production practices of a farm meet organic requirements.

Beer said that for those small producers who are concerned with the many measures needed to be certified organic, there is a provision available.

“If people are doing a small operation selling at the farmers’ market or from their driveway, and they’re taking in under $5,000 a year, you can say it’s organic but you don’t have to certify,” Beer explained.

This and other helpful information for gardening and farming will be available during the conference, which has been conducted annually for close to 40 years.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

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