Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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It is nice to be important

Growing food is a humbling experience; it is also, physically demanding, intellectually challenging and incredibly stressful.  Above all else there needs to be an abundance of patience and perseverance.  Along with the work there is waiting, waiting to see if seeds germinate, if the weather holds or will bring much needed water.  Waiting for the right time to release beneficial bugs to attack during the detrimental insect various stages of development is a critical for our integrated pest management plan.  Waiting for signs, deviations or changes. Which creates the need for contingency planning.  And then a new, one of a kind, problem occurs, one of those once in a lifetime events like when farms were first invaded  by Japanese beetles, ours is BMSB.

The brown marmarated stinkbugs die with insecticidal soap as long as they are in the first four stages (instars) of life.  We have to get the trap crops in the ground early to catch the over wintering adults as they mate and leave their larvae.  We use an early rising crop like radishes and surround that with sunflowers, which take longer to reach maturity.  At maturity, the bright yellow sunflowers attract the adult BMSB and that allows us to use a mix of Pyganic and Surround.  This is a lethal combination and can kill beneficial insects as well creating a negative environmental impact.

There is waiting for the actual fruit or vegetable to appear and then nurturing them to maturation.  You wait for the first signs of things that will reduce the yield or destroy the crop.  Growing is filled with hope, anticipation, failure and joy.  Pulling a tomato off the vine and biting it wakes up most of your senses, first you will taste, then smell the inside, see the red flesh and get the real taste of Umami, the elusive 5th taste that we as humans experience.  Those sensations go with all the fruits and vegetables you grow.

This is an incredibly hard job not just physical, emotional, intellectual and dangerous, but expensive too.  The big picture can be overwhelming that is why we have chosen to be part of a farmer-mentoring program.  The farming community is unlike any other that I have had association.  I have written a lot about calling asking for advice and visiting farms (field walks) to find out ways to do things.  The older farmers have plenty of knowledge, experience and information at their fingertips as well as generations of friends and colleagues.  Without these people and their wisdom there is so much more room for error and failure.  You could say that it is nice for these people to be so important to the rest of us.  However, passing on their knowledge to others they see it as, it is more important to be nice.

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Big Tobacco

I liken the GMO debate to what I grew up learning about the decades the  tobacco industry knowingly sold products that caused death to the general public.  Thalidomide, DDT and their ilk was another learning process for everyone.  On one side you have profiteer’s willing to say anything to promote their product to enrich them even though it is to the detriment of the very consumer that makes them rich.  The GMO debate walks like tobacco, sounds like tobacco and smells like tobacco and is history repeating itself.

You have the industrial food complex spending millions if not billions already on sending out misinformation to confuse consumers about the relative safety of GMO products.  On the other side, you have formal, yet independent findings that show detriments to the environment (super weeds and bugs), upper-respiratory issues (increase in asthma suffers, even when increase in population is taken into account), endocrine problems in predictor species (bass and bullfrogs feminized by Atrazine), food-born allergies, anti-biotic resistant strains of bacteria, the list just seems to keep growing.  When growing up I did not know of anyone who had a peanut allergy.  I know they must have existed but today, we have people that are dangerously allergic to peanut, gluten, lactose, soy, egg, latex, shellfish and others.

Corporations are telling us GMO’s are safe, so did big tobacco and the chemical companies about their products in the 1950 and 60’s.  Just look at who supplied money to the anti-gmo labeling initiatives in California prop-37 and Washington’s I-522 initiatives.  Then you have independent researchers finding out there are detriments to the product.  Big tobacco brought out study after study verifying their claim that held cigarettes harmless. You hear there is no science to support GMO and cancer links.  At one point in time there was no scientific evidence that linked lung, lymphoma and other cancers to cigarettes.

Our history is fraught with corporations going after profit over the safety of the consumer, which is why we have some consumer protection laws.  Having grown-up witnessing the ravages of tobacco’s toll on my family and seeing the ills of DDT and thalidomide babies makes me more acute to what claims are being presented and sold to me and by whom.

When first introduced GMO’s were sold based on farmers having to use less herbicides and insecticides in the field, saving them money while increasing yields.  Now, independent research is proving otherwise.  We have the advent of super-weeds and bugs that have become resistant, causing the need for even more and stronger chemicals.  Then there are the other industrialized nations, in the world, that have banned GMO’s.

Right now, what I see from both sides harkens back to the 60’s and 70’s when big tobacco was desperately trying to keep their secrets hidden and that hits too close to home.  If GMO’s are safe, why not label and let the consumer make the choice, even if they are not safe, people still choose to smoke.

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