Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
[ Member listing ]
We started planting the spring garden, growing lettuces, kale, and chard and of course, the strawberries. We have been doing research for the past year to determine if anyone in the state of Maryland opened an organic pick your own strawberry patch. We know of organic pick your own vegetables, but we have not found strawberry in particular. We checked with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, well-established organic farmers in the state and news articles from the past two decades. We have not found any, so I believe we are going to be the first in the state to do so.
We are using landscape fabric this year even though I viewed a webinar on yield differences between fabric and cover cropping for weed suppression. It turns out cover cropping increases the yield of corn, tomatoes and other vegetables. The scientist went on to explain the chemical reaction that takes place causing the increase. We had already committed to landscape fabric so we will store that knowledge for the future.
After the planting comes weeding, watering and watching, the three w's of organic growing and producing. Weeding is broken into the three H's: hoeing, hands, heat and spraying. Okay spraying does not fit but we do control weeds by spraying concentrated vinegar, lemon juice, clove oil and lecithin. The spray has a pleasant fragrance that I like but is not for everyone. You can only use the spray if it is above seventy-five degrees and it is not going to rain for awhile nor should it have rained for awhile, which doesn't make it the most ideal weed control but we use it when we can.
My most favorite way to weed is heat. The heat is easier than the other methods but it does have its drawbacks, I may have gotten a reputation for starting fires but it is not on purpose and I am very careful despite what my wife says. I did set an old abandoned concrete silo on fire once, by mistake. Let me explain before you determine my culpability.
The silo was made of concrete block, had no roof, and was loaded with old wood from the previous owners. My weeding tool is a propane tank with a hose and torch attached. You turn it on, rub the flint for a spark and you have about 25,000 BTU to kill weeds. I had been using the torch for over a year before the day the silo caught fire and I was pretty successful not burning things down, with the except of weeds and maybe carrots. I knew the silo was loaded with wood and in essence, it was a tinderbox, so I was careful whenever I was around it with the flame.
It was late in a long day of work and I wanted to get the weeding done; I started around the silo then went around the barn and to the grape vines. From the grape vines, I went to the production garden and started doing the perimeter. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my wife running towards the silo. I knew immediately why she was running; I turned to see flames licking out of the top of the silo. When I got closer, I could hear popping sounds and then clinks on the tin roof of the barn. The cement covering from inside the silo was heating up and exploding out hitting the roof. I took everything off and went to the barn to get the water pump. I pulled the pump out hooked up the hoses to the water tank and pulled to start the pump engine. Of course, it does not start. After three pulls, it coughs to life and water starts to come out. Once the water was flowing, I was able to cool the fire down and eventually put the fire out. It took about eight-hundred gallons of rainwater to accomplish that feat but we did get it out.
My wife was standing there eyes wide open, heart pounding and shell shocked. What could I say, I had a torch, the silo caught fire and I was in the area, there was no wiggle room, none. I think we were both in shock at the time so we put the pump and hoses back, and we stopped for the day. I look back and see how lucky we were, how things fell into place, the pump worked and we actually had water in the collection tank. Any one of those things not happening and we might have lost the barn. I still weed with heat but my wife prefers the hoe and hand method best. I can laugh about it, my wife is to the point were she can grin and shake her head but not quite laugh.
Buy Local: But, make sure your farmer is actually growing what they are selling
Posted by Brian
@ 07:25 PM EDT
I cannot help but start to feel excited now that the weather is changing. I question my sanity and everyone else that has taken up growing. That is the conundrum with growing safe fruits, vegetables and chickens. It is incredibly hard, unpredictable and totally at the mercy of the environment. For the small farmer it is gambling with the steepest of stakes.
Yet, there are tens of thousands forging ahead pushing physical barriers and toiling for the benefit of others. To me growing transcends everything but money. If you do not make money in essence, you have a hobby. There are not a lot of people that would perform physical labor in July and August in Maryland, if they did not have to or if there was no passion for what they were doing. However, it really does make me wonder if I am tilting at windmills sometimes.
This year however, has promise for something special. This season marks the first time that we have two experienced farm hands returning to help us. These young adults are bright, hard working, honest, thoughtful and dependable. Last year would have been worse had it not been for their help, ideas and dedication. I have two people that understand the dangers of farming, the correct way to plant, weed and care for the chickens. This means most of my time will be spent doing other tasks, like flame weeding, much to the chagrin of my wife.
The people that help on the farm are a stark contrast to what I have seen from people their age. This negative image was borne from dealing with the dolts that have ridden through our property and various other interactions. I do not mean to say that the actions of a few represented the group as a whole, but I was jaded having visited the Future Farmers of America class only to find out that their idea of farming was using air-conditioned tractors.
There is something about farming that makes one mature faster. I see it on family farms where the kids do some major chores. Some of the folks that have worked with us have gone on to establish themselves in their own communities. One runs a farm another works in an urban farming initiative. They were civic minded before they got here. I would like to think what they learned during their tenure reinforced their core beliefs. We let our actions speak for us and that is what they saw. We talk the talk to our customers but they saw that our actions supported our views about healthy sustainable farming while providing a safe, fresh, food source for our community.
We actually made money this year. It was not much but we were not in the red as we have been in the past years. Losses have been due to stinkbugs, lack of water and nutrient management. To get around the stinkbugs we planted more spring and fall crops and for summer, planted underground vegetables that they could not get. `
Therefore, we start this spring as we do every other one. Renewed and rested in body and spirit, filled with potential and possibilities. This season with our veterans coming back to help us the sky is the limit.
Buy Local: Preserve those who chose to persevere for a healthy environment and food source.
Posted by Brian
@ 07:53 PM EDT
Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader
There is institutional advertising that a major seed manufacturer is playing over the radio airwaves. It is about how farming uses so much water and that their genetically engineered seeds will use less water and yield more food and how this is going to help farmers world-wide. If that is true, why is this major seed manufacturer suing American farmers for patent infringement? The infringement, by the way, is caused by pollen drift. Pollen drift, think about that, bees, wind, birds and insects all carry pollen. Pollen from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) fields or even trucks carrying gmo products drift into neighboring fields and boom, the company sues the farmer for patent infringement. In addition, the court rulings have backed up the company not the farmer.
When pollen drift is as natural and inevitable as the sunrise why is the farmer on the hook for stopping GMO pollen drift? Go to www.hulu.com and search for the "Future of Food". It is a documentary on how genetic engineering was accomplished, how seeds are patented and then used as a big stick to force farmers into the herbicide ready club and how pollen drift allows Monsanto to sue farmers. However, in one of the greatest examples of turning the tables Wood Prairie Farms, an organic potato farm, has brought a class action lawsuit against Monsanto for contaminating their organic potatoes. Now that is fighting fire with fire.
We are at a cross roads in our concepts of food, where you see grass root efforts like the Slow Food, buy local, urban farming and support local farms movements. We have groups like Ark of Taste, which is a movement to bring back heritage breeds from pigs, cows and chickens to tomatoes and everything else that has been genetically modified to fit the needs of the profit motive not the taste for consumers. From my standpoint, nasty chemicals on the food and pathogens cause health problems. Recall after recall, year after year, has become commonplace because the industrial food complex is making people seriously ill, with some resulting in death. What is worse is that recalls are a relatively new phenomenon. Did we have recalls in the sixties and seventies? My mind is going but I do not know of any.
We have had recalls because people are getting sick and we are hearing more and more about bacteria becoming anti-biotic resistant. We know that Atrizine is an endocrine disrupter. The endocrine system in the human body regulates hormonal balance. Studies recently found that high levels of Atrizine are castrating and feminizing other predictor species. Predictor species like bass and frogs have similar physiological make ups as humans, hence “predictor”. Scientist look at predictor species with the supposition that what happens to them is an indication of what can happen to humans. Atrizine is one of the most used chemicals by the IFC.
Then there is taste, remember taste, when tomatoes were sweet, soft, watery spheres of goodness. Which would you pick to eat, a tomato from the grocery store or one out of the garden? So far, every single person that I have asked that question picks the latter. Why? Because there came a time when the IFC turned the tomato into a bottom line calculation and its taste was compromised for its longevity. As was most vegetables and fruit.
An organic plant struggles to get its nutrients out of the ground. When a predator attacks the plant, the plant releases its own sent that attracts bugs that are predators or parasites of the bug eating its leaves. This does not work with a heavy infestation but if the plant survives, it grows stronger and has a better taste then a plant that was sprayed with synthetic fertilizers and insecticides. That is why when you grow fruits and vegetables you want to get native plants in your own area. The fauna has lived and adapted to the environment. That means they have adapted and survived the bugs, fungi etcetera.
I trust my taste buds, I know what is on my plants, I know that the more we allow large corporations to genetically modify food the greater susceptibility we all face for unknown genetic mutation, and greater risk of bacterial out breaks caused by anti-biotic resistance. That is why more than ever supporting your local farmer is important. It really is cheaper and healthier for everyone in the end.
Buy Local: Every dollar you spend keeps local growers growing.
Posted by Brian
@ 07:43 AM EDT