Posts tagged organic

Pond and garden walks

     

Pond at Larry and Erma Thompson's Cedar Rapids home (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Pond, and wildlife, at Larry and Erma Thompson's Cedar Rapids home (photo, Cindy Hadish)

 Larry and Erma Thompson have an entire room in their home dedicated to Larry’s fish hobby, but it’s outside where his love of fish really shines. Twenty-two koi in 20 varieties spend the entire year (cold Iowa winters, too) in a well-kept pond at the couple’s home in Cedar Rapids. Goldfish are in a separate pond. Larry Thompson was awarded the Koi Person of the Year for Iowa, a regional award given at the Associated Koi Clubs of America during February’s koi show in San Diego, California. The award is a testament not only to his koi expertise, but dedication to the craft and volunteer hours he donates to community projects. Larry gives credit to his wife for her support and the beautiful plants that surround their ponds.  “Anything pretty is Erma’s,” he said. “The functional stuff is mine.”

Plants help filter the water in the ponds at Larry and Erma Thompson's home (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Plants help filter the water in the ponds at Larry and Erma Thompson's home (photo, Cindy Hadish)

      Their home will be one of the stops on a pond tour next weekend. Following is info from the Eastern Iowa Pond Society and other groups holding garden walks next weekend.

    Whether you are a serious water gardener, Koi keeper, casual pond owner, want-to-be pond owner, or just plain love flowers and water, you won’t want to miss the chance to view the ponds in this year’s  Eastern Iowa Pond Society annual pond tour, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, July 12, 2009, rain or shine. As usual, pond owners and club members will be available at each pond to answer questions. They will also have a plant and small art/craft sale at one of the pond locations. This year’s tour will feature ponds in the Cedar Rapids/Solon/Swisher areas. Tickets and maps are $5.00 for adults (kids under 12 are free) and are available at all pond sites with all proceeds going back to the community for area landscape and beautification projects.  A good place to start might be 131 Rosedale Rd SE, Cedar Rapids or 3682 Douglas Dr. NE Solon. For more information please call Jackie Allsup 319-934-3665 or visit: www.eips.org

 Here are other garden walks coming up next weekend:

      Friends of Hickory Hill Park will have a garden walk in Iowa City from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 11, 2009. The walk benefits the group’s stewardship fund for maintenance and restoration work. Four gardens will be on the tour, plus tornado recovery areas on Hotz and Rochester avenues. Speakers will be at each site to discuss prairie plantings, Backyard Abundance and organic lawn care.    Start at 1167 E. Jefferson Street to purchase tickets and pick up a map. Cost is $10 per person or $8 per person if you bike or walk to 1167 Jefferson St. Families are $15. To volunteer or for more information, phone 319-338-5331 To make a donation:  Anyone unable to attend the Garden Walk but wishing to make a contribution should make the check out to LEAF and mail it to:  LEAF, P.O. Box 1681, Iowa City, IA  52244-1681.

    The Fairfax Parks Committee will have a walk, rain or shine, at five Fairfax gardens from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, July 12, 2009. Iowa State University Extension master gardeners will be available at the gardens to answer questions. The walk includes the garden of Megan McConnell Hughes, which is featured on the cover of the summer 2009 Country Gardens magazine. Tickets can be purchased at Fairfax State Savings Bank or Guaranty Bank in Fairfax. Tickets can also be purchased the day of the event at the Fairfax North welcome sign at Williams Boulevard and Prairie View Drive. Cost is $5 for adults and $10 for families. Proceeds will be used to buy playground equipment for Hawks Ridge Park.

    Also on Sunday, July 12, Project GREEN will have a garden walk in Iowa City from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you want to know how to garden with deer, this is the walk for you. Four large gardens at the edge of woodlands are featured on the walk, including one property that covers nearly four acres. All gardens are located north of Interstate 80, off Dubuque Street. Cost is $5 for adults. Children under 16 are admitted free.    Start at any of the following sites for a map, which becomes your ticket for the other gardens: Pat and Stan Podhajsky, 3817 Cedar Drive NE; Maggie VanOel, 8 Oak Park Lane NE;   Twila and Dick Hobbs, 9 Oak Park Lane NE; Bill and Michelle Welter, 15 Oak Park Place NE. Wear comfortable walking shoes. The weather may be hot and buggy, so bring along a bottle of water and bug spray .  To learn more, see: www.projectgreen.org

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And the winner is…

Debbie Walderbach of Cedar Rapids was the winner of the drawing for

Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods

Dandelion Earth -Friendly Goods

organic cotton and corn-made items from Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods this morning at the Gazette/KCRG tent at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids.

Because several people asked about the products in the drawing, here is the link for Dandelion, where you can find more information: www.dandelionforbaby.com

 

It was nice meeting everyone who stopped by, even in the rain.

Umbrellas, the must-have accessory for this morning's Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids/ photo, Cindy Hadish

Umbrellas, the must-have accessory for this morning's Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids/ photo, Cindy Hadish

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Meet me at the market

   The first Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market of this season will be Saturday, June 6, from 7:30 a.m. to noon and I plan to be there. Stop by the KCRG/Gazette table in Greene Square Park sometime between 9-10 a.m. and say hi! I’d like to hear what you’re interested in reading about on this blog and in The Gazette.

  As reporters, we occasionally receive products from companies that we cannot keep. Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods recently sent several items that the eco-conscious readers of this blog might enjoy, so I thought it would be fun to have a drawing. If you stop by our table – remember, just between 9 and 10 a.m. or so – sign up and you could win some of these cute Earth-friendly products. 

   Here is some information that Dandelion sent:

Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods

Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods

At a time when “organic,” “green,” environmentally-friendly,” “renewable” and “sustainable” is a part of our everyday culture, consumers are sincerely moved to help preserve the planet and the health and well-being of their families. With the desire to champion an emerging “green” awareness, Re-Think It, Inc., is launching its collection of Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods that turns living green into easy living.
   Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods are made entirely using eco-friendly materials and processes, from organic cotton grown without pesticides and chemicals, coloring process and right down to the plant-based fibers used in filling the plush toys. The ReUsables – the divided plates, bowls and utensils – are made from corn, rather than conventional plastics comprised mostly of petroleum.
 
Stop by the table on June 6 to see these items and let us know what’s on your mind. For more on Dandelion, go to: www.dandelionforbaby.com
 

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Using (free!) compost to restore flooded yards

 

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

Screening equipment and compost piles at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency's site in southwest Cedar Rapids (Cindy Hadish photo)

   Stacie Johnson, compost expert extraordinaire, sent me a note about getting flooded yards back in shape. Stacie, education coordinator for the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, said owners of flood-damaged homes have been calling the agency about using compost as fill as they begin work on their yards this spring.  Last June’s floods wiped out the vegetation of thousands of homes in Eastern Iowa, especially in the Cedar Rapids area. One caller wanted to put compost 4 inches deep on her lawn, but Stacie advises against using compost as fill or topsoil. The grass might sprout, but would have long-term problems growing. Also, it would make a very soft spot in the yard, as compost is mostly organic matter with little mineral content. 

      The Agency is giving away free compost for Linn County residents and Stacie wants it to be used so it’s most beneficial to these homeowners.

Here is what she says:

    Compost is a good source of soil organic matter and shouldn’t be used as you would topsoil.  The three compost applications recommended by the Solid Waste Agency are mulching, amending and top-dressing.

Mulching: add one inch of compost as a mulch layer, no need to work in and can be topped off with wood mulch for a formal landscape.

 Amending: (most likely the best approach for flood homes)  work one to two inches into the top six inches of existing soil.

 Top Dressing – spread 1/4 to ½-inch layer of compost over existing lawn; best to aerate before top dressing and reseed after.

A rule of thumb for how much compost is needed to complete a project:  square footage x depth x .0031 = cubic yards needed for your soil amendment project.

The agency’s Web site: www.solidwasteagency.org has more information on hours and where you can pick up the compost. The compost is made from the leaves and other natural materials collected in Yardys. It is aged in piles and unwanted materials are removed with a heavy-duty screening machine. The result is rich, dark compost that is great for the soil.

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Farmers Market season begins

Perennials for sale by Betty Decker at Hiawatha Farmers Market

Perennials for sale by Betty Decker at Hiawatha Farmers Market

 As of this afternoon (Friday, May 1, 2009), the Cedar Rapids farmers market season will begin. The schedule apparently has caused some confusion. This might be the reason:  There’s the Noelridge Park market, which begins at the same time and place as usual. Then there is the market in the city parking lot on Eighth Avenue SE, which was relocated after last year’s flood and is almost, but not quite the same otherwise as last year, and one in Greene Square Park that replaces one day of the Eighth Avenue markets, but only from June through August. And then there is the large-scale Downtown Farmers Markets, which is only on certain days throughout the season and preempts the Eighth Avenue market on those Saturdays. Pretty simple.

   I was at the Hiawatha Farmers Market on Sunday. If you haven’t been to that one, it’s worth your while to go, not only because it’s one of few markets on Sundays, but they offer great produce, plants, baked goods, organic meat and more. That’s where I shot the photo, above, of perennials for sale by Betty Decker, from Decker’s Hobbies in Walker. Look for more photos from the Hiawatha market and a “clip and save” listing of area farmers markets in the Sunday, May 3, Gazette. It’s in the Money section, in its new location behind the sports pages.

   You can find all of those markets under the Linn County heading in the farmers market category on this blog, plus many others. New this year is a farmers market in Shellsburg and the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids (the big one that’s just on certain days) has some new additions, too. This is from Quinn Pettifer, from the Cedar Rapids Downtown District:

   New features this season include open mic sessions, a Green Space sponsorship and recycling program, and a pet policy offering guidelines for patrons that bring their pets to the market. The pet policy includes a maximum 4 foot leash requirement, as well as basic health and social interaction guidelines.  Another noteworthy addition to this season includes the acceptance of WIC checks by those vendors participating in both the City and Downtown Farmers’ Markets. The WIC approval process was led by Representative Tyler Olson who took the initiative to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey for special approval.  

    Quinn also notes that 4th Avenue and 5 Seasons Parkades will be free and open to the public, with additional on street parking available. Handicapped accessible parking will be available in the True North Parking lot along 5th Street SE.  The market (remember, this is the large, downtown one) will be in a slightly different location than it was last year after the flood. It will be along 3rd and 4th Avenues to include 2nd and 3rd Streets SE and Greene Square Park.   

That market is on June 6, June 20, July 18, August 1, August 15, September 5, and October 3. Entertainment for the June 6 market includes Pan-Delirium Steel Drum Band, Theatre Cedar Rapids, MOvMNT, Library Story Time, Iowa Children’s Museum activities, a roaming wine tasting, cooking demonstration, and street entertainment from Mark Brown and Junk Funk.

     Bob Shepherd also sent some info (as well as the photo below) about the Washington Farmers Market, which begins Thursday, May 14th:  The market starts at 5pm each Thursday evening and closes at 7:30pm. Growers, bakers, and artists set up their displays in downtown Central Park, under the tall shade trees, along the new sidewalks leading to the Memorial Fountain. Vendors number from 20 in the spring to 45 during the summer as produce reaches its peak maturity. We are a certified Iowa Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program market with a number of eligible growers. Starting in June, ‘Thursday Night Live’, offers entertainment from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, local artists including; Catfish Keith, Patrick Hazell, suzuki strings, dance studios and the Richland Old Time String Band to name a few, perform on the Washington Bandstand. The Washington Muni Band follows with rousing concerts from 8pm to 9pm. Such is the usual fare in downtown Washington on Thursday evenings throughout the summer. Special Market events include; the12th annual Smoker/BB-Q/Grill Challenge on the Thursday following Fathers Day June 25th , The 11th annual Tasters’ Choice Salsa Contest will be September 3rd the Thursday before Labor Day.

    Duane Randall, Director of Parks & Recreation in Vinton, sent information about the Peal or No Peal night and other fun stuff going on at the Vinton Farmers Market this summer. You can find more info and photos on that market at: www.vprdzone.com

Customers snatch up baked goods at the Washington (Iowa) Farmers Market last summer. Photo by Bob Shepherd

Customers snatch up baked goods at the Washington (Iowa) Farmers Market last summer. Photo by Bob Shepherd

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All about lawns

   It’s spring and attention is turning to lawns. Two things today about lawn care. The first is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith and the second came to me from Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sent the message to remind homeowners that spring is an ideal time to improve soil quality in our yards and that restoration of the soil can help retain water, prevent erosion and protect water quality.

 

This is from Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for some mowing?  Depending on the weather, your summer lawn mowing and maintenance can begin anytime in April.

Did you service the mower last fall?  If you didn’t have time then, you should take time now.  Beg or bribe your favorite spouse or relative to change the oil, kick the tires, replace the spark plug and air filter, and be certain the blades are sharp and not bent. 

If the ground temperature is 55-60’ you can commence any necessary re-seeding and repairs. Lawn repair kits that will contain seed and mulch can be purchased.  But remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so do not succumb to terrific sounding no maintenance grasses and groundcover.   Apply the patch after you have removed the dead turf and loosened and amended the soil.

   Pizza or ice cream treats may create some enthusiasm to have the kids or grandkids help you rake and remove clumps of leaves and other debris left over from winter ice and snow. Initiate a game of pickup sticks (branches). Tamp down runways created by winter vole activity and fill in holes. 

  Hose off lawn areas along walks, drives and roadways that have been exposed to deicing compounds or your grass may not reappear.  Keep newly seeded and sodded areas moist to reduce stress on young and developing root systems.   Watering an established lawn is not necessary now.  Wait until May to fertilize.  Over watering and over fertilizing does more harm than good on your lawn:  strike a happy medium.  Excessive use of insecticides may reduce nature’s aerating machines, the earthworm. Monitor your lawn for any insect damage prior to spraying. 

   Proper mowing is a real key to a healthy lawn.  The suggested mowing height is 3-3 ½” Taller grass forms a deeper root system.  Stronger plants are more likely to fend off insects, disease and weeds.  Remove only 1/3 of the total height of the grass and leave the clippings on the lawn to decompose. Clippings add nitrogen, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Varying the direction and pattern of mowing will reduce the wear and tear on the lawn.

   So, are you ready for some mowing?  Grab a bottle of lemonade and your hat and sunscreen. Hop on the mower and enjoy the spring weather and the start of a beautiful lawn.

 

From Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

 

    Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged homeowners to consider incorporating soil quality restoration efforts into their annual spring yard work.

   Often in urban areas, especially new developments, the topsoil has been removed and what is left is compacted.  Restoring soil quality helps yards and green spaces absorb and infiltrate rainfall, which reduces the homeowners need to water their yard while protecting water quality and preventing runoff.

   “Iowa is known for it’s great soil, and rightfully so, but we need to make sure we are taking care of that soil so that it is healthy,” Northey said.  “What made our soil so productive was the high organic matter content and porosity that absorbed rain and allowed roots to grow deep.  Soil quality restoration helps recreate those conditions that allow plants to thrive.”

   If you are establishing a new lawn, perform deep tillage (8-12 inches deep) before seeding or sodding to breaks up compacted soils.  Add compost to increase organic matter.  It is recommended that soils have 5 percent or more organic matter before sodding or seeding, which can be achieved by incorporating 1 to 3 inches of compost.

   If you have an existing lawn, consider aerating the soil and then apply a blanket of compost in the spring or fall.  An application of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of compost following aeration will help fill the holes with organic matter to amend the soil and allow existing turf to grow through the compost amendment. If your turf is patchy, add seed to the compost application to thicken up the vegetation.

   “Improving the soil quality in your yard will make your lawn healthier, require less water and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications,” Northey added.  “A better looking lawn and improved water quality in the state are possible when we better manage runoff through soil quality restoration and other measures that allow water to infiltrate.”

   There are a number of other lawn care tips to help care for your soil and promote infiltration of water and prevent runoff.

  • Begin mowing after the first of May and end near Labor Day.
  • Set the mower at three inches high. The higher the grass shoots the deeper the grass roots, making it better able to survive dry periods.
  • Use the mulch setting on your mower to leave the grass clippings on the yard. Don’t lower organic matter content by removing clippings.
  • Consider using native plants for accent in planting beds or in rain gardens to minimize the amount of turf grass.
  • Seed your lawn to a native turf mixture that has deep roots and thrives in Iowa’s weather conditions without extra care.

   More information about urban conservation, rain gardens and a soil quality brochure are available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov

 

 

               

               

 

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Sen. Harkin served (rBGH-free) milk and cookies; Sen. Grassley makes “Biggest Biofools” list; UPDATE – Grassley’s response

 New Thursday: see Sen. Chuck Grassley’s response to “Biofools” list below…

Milk and cookies outside Sen. Harkin's Cedar Rapids office

Milk and cookies outside Sen. Harkin's Cedar Rapids office

Photo: Paul Deaton, of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility; Angela Gadzik, University of Iowa student and volunteer with Food and Water Watch and Stephanie Rynning, UI student and intern with Food and Water Watch, listen Wednesday as Theresa Carbrey, at right, addresses the benefits of organic milk outside Sen. Tom Harkin’s Cedar Rapids office at the Wells Fargo Building, 150 First Ave. NE. Carbrey is education and member services coordinator for new Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City. 

 It wasn’t Sen. Harkin himself, but members of Food & Water Watch, along with representatives of New Pioneer Co-op and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, presented hormone-free milk and cookies and more than 1,000 petitions today to Sen. Tom Harkin’s Office in Cedar Rapids. The petitions call on Harkin to support including language in the Child Nutrition Act that allows local jurisdictions to choose milk free of artificial hormones for school lunch programs. According to Food & Water Watch, the United States is the only industrialized nation that still uses rBGH – recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone – despite major concerns about its links to cancer. As major retailers have moved away from rBGH, “this risky milk is being dumped into our public school system,” members said.

According to Roberts Dairy’s Web site, the genetically engineered drug, injected into dairy cows to induce them to increase milk production, is estimated to be used in 15 to 20 percent of the cows in the United States. It was approved by the FDA in 1993. As of Feb. 1, 2008, Roberts Dairy uses only milk from dairy farmers who have pledged to not treat their cows with artificial growth hormones. While the FDA has found no significant difference between milk from treated and untreated herds, “some of our customers prefer their milk to come from untreated cows,” the dairy’s Web site says. Others, including Anderson-Erickson and Swiss Valley, have also gone rBGH-free.

Caitlin Seeley, field organizer for Food & Water Watch, said that Harkin supports local farmers and child nutrition. “We’re urging him to support (the language change) and really be a champion on this issue,” she said.

Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. The group challenges the corporate control and abuse of food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what people eat and drink.
More information about the School Milk Campaign is at: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/school-milk

Also today, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Network singled out Grassley with other policy-makers and corporate leaders as the top national “biofools” in a contest sponsored by the two organizations. The grassroots contest is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the dangers of industrialized biofuels as a false solution to climate change.

The groups noted that Sen. Chuck Grassley supports claims that biofuels are “contributing to a cleaner environment,” ignoring the scientific evidence that biofuel production is contributing to the rapid destruction of rainforests abroad and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico here at home. I have an inquiry in to Grassley’s office, but haven’t heard a response yet.

NEW – This just came today (Thursday) from Sen. Grassley’s office:

“The International Energy Agency just released a report that corn-ethanol reduces greenhouse gasoline emissions compared to gasoline by nearly 40 percent.  They also say that number will improve to 55 percent by 2015.  So, if being pro-biofuels, pro-farmer, pro-Iowa, pro-environment and pro-jobs and anti-imported foreign oil gets you recognized like this, then Senator Grassley is happy to have it.” 

 

Here is more from Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network:

Three policy makers and three corporate leaders were singled out today as the top national “biofools” in a contest sponsored by Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network. The grassroots contest is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the dangers of industrialized biofuels as a false solution to climate change.

Despite growing scientific evidence that they contribute to air pollution, deforestation and climate change, industrialized biofuels are being promoted by government and agribusiness as a ‘clean’ solution to climate change and to our nation’s fossil fuel addiction. Replacing just 10 percent of world demand for diesel for road transport with biodiesel would require 75 percent of the world’s existing soy, oil palm and rapeseed crops. Even current government mandates for these so-called renewable fuels will create enough demand for biofuels to cause food shortages and environmental catastrophe around the world.

The online contest will be held on April 1, 2009, as concerned citizens vote online to determine the nation’s biggest biofool. The winner will be announced on the group’s joint webpage: http://www.biofoolsday.org.

Nominees include:

Linda Cook, Executive Director, Shell Oil. Citing economic concerns, Cook recently announced that Shell Oil will no longer invest in wind and solar energy and focus their energy solely on liquid fuels, hugely increasing the oil giants investment in biofuels.

Hugh Grant, CEO, Monsanto. The global biofuels rush has provided a perfect new market for Monsanto’s genetically modified plants, an inevitable ingredient of biofuel feedstocks. The agribusiness giant dismisses evidence that biofuels are harmful for the environment or have anything to do with food price spikes and shortages.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Senator Chuck Grassley supports claims that biofuels are “contributing to a cleaner environment,” ignoring the scientific evidence that biofuel production is contributing to the rapid destruction of rainforests abroad and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico here at home.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD). Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin has been a strong advocate for reducing global warming pollution, but supports attempts to strip federal forest protections from biofuels policy, claiming that prohibiting the clear-cutting of our federal forests for biofuel production keeps us dependent on foreign oil.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD). A longtime proponent of biofuels, Senator John Thune recently advocated increasing the amount of biofuels that can be blended into gasoline, removing critical forest protections, and potentially eviscerating the global warming standards in biofuels policy.

Patricia Woertz, CEO, Archer Daniels Midland. A former Chevron executive before her tenure at ADM, Woertz is leading the agroenergy charge. ADM is a leading importer of palm oil, a popular biofuel feedstock and a leading cause of deforestation in Southeast Asia.

Friends of the Earth – http://www.foe.org – is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.

Rainforest Action Network campaigns to break North America’s oil and coal addictions, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and nonviolent direct action. For more information, visit: www.ran.org

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