Organic Agriculture (CSA week 4)
July 17, 2009
Things have been a bit cool lately, but I was really thankful for the rain we got this week (almost an inch). We were getting worried about moisture levels out there, but it’ll be no problem for a while. Acually, since we have such a heavy clay soil, we can get away withought rain or watering for 2-3 weeks.
I figured I’d write about organic ag this week and about certification in particular, simply because I feel like there are some real misconceptions out there and I’d like to explain where we sort out.
I think there’s a lot of confusion simply because organic has gone through some changes in the last decade, the biggest being the National Organic Program (NOP), established by the federal government throught USDA. Today, when you say Organic, it means you grow according to the NOP standards and have been certified for doing so. Unless somebody sells less than $5,00o of food, you can’t use the term organic…you could actually be fined for doing so.
Often, when I talk certification with people, they often say, “oh, doesn’t that take three years of not spraying your land?” Yes, and a whole lot of other things. When a certification agency is auditing and inspecting your farm, they want to know about all your inputs (fertilizers, insecticides, mulches, potting soil, etc.) and practices (cover cropping, cultivation, conservation measures on the farm) and they want to see record and documentation of such. So it isn’t just not spraying for three years that matters, it’s following these standards across the board and presenting an audit trail to prove it…no small matter. I’ve actully started an audit trail so we can become officially certified in a few years–even though we have only used certified inputs, I can’t prove a thing and need the records.
So, I think often people have the impression that just because somebody grows organically, that they don’t use any inputs on the farm but manure and hard work, although that is a lot of it. For insects, there are organic sprays (some think this is an oxymoron). The only insecticide we use is called Pyganic, the chief ingrediant of which is natural pyrethrum, an insecticide derived from chrysanthemums. We also use a small amount of an organic fertilizer called Renaissance. It’s actually a mix of soybean meal, feather, and bone meal. We mainly use it to sidedress the sweet corn, which is a pretty heavy feeder. Both of these are OMRI-certified, which is the agency which certifies whether a product meets the national organic standards. Otherwise, we do use a fair amount of composted manure for fertility, both from our sheep and from a neighboring turkey farm.
In the box:
Basil: please don’t refrigerate. I find it does best with a damp cloth in an opened plastic bag at room temperature
Kohlrabi: mostly purple variety
Strawberries: kind of pathetic…getting pretty slim out there
Boston Fireball Lettuce: By far the prettiest lettuce I’ve grown…also called “bibb” or “butterhead” It’s can be a bit bitter, almost like endive…you may want to mix with the greenleaf.
Greenleaf Lettuce: variety called Marin after the county in CA. This is the end of the lettuce, so put into a plastic bag and leave in the refridgerator…it should keep up to three weeks.
“Spring” onions: one torpedo onion and one sweet.
Yellow Sebring Zucchini: see recipe below
A bit o’ mint (see recipe below)
Zucchini and Fresh Herb Fritters
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
(This is a real classic cookbook I would recommend for anyone)
Salt and pepper
2lbs. green or golden zucchini, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 bunch scallions or spring onions (thinly sliced)
1 cup dried bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 T chopped basil
1 t chopped mint
olive oil as needed
Lightly salt zucchini and set aside in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together except the oil and pepper. Quickly rinse the squash, sqeeze out the excess water, then stir into batter. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
Film two skillets with olive oil. When hot, drop in the batter-quarter cup makes a fritter about 3.5 inches across-and cook over medium heat until golden on bottom. Turn and cook other side. Serve hot…serves 4.