Friday, November 15, 2013

Mistress Winter, must you leave frost all over?!

Welcome to a frosted edition of Lost in the Farmer’s market. As all of you know there was supposed to be a double post over the weekend but the recently cold weather has had me scrambling to handle field work. As noted in the frost preparation post that meant deploying tarps and moving the most tender plants inside for their own survival. Today I’ll cover the particulars of the frost, this week’s plant list for the market and the assigned topic for the double post.

Now for those of you reading this who are regulars to this blog you know I’m utterly dedicated to the organic sustainable agriculture movement. There is no doubt in my mind that the time for this is right and it is precisely what the nation needs. My primary logic for such is simple enough; we are facing a severe food shortage. As Cumberland County Agriculture Extension Director Lisa Childers said to me during an interview regarding our greatest ecological threat;  “The loss of farmland, we have to double our food supply by the year 2050. When you look at all the challenges facing our farms, the average of the farmer is 57, so you have concerns about farm land transition and who’s going to take on that farm and keep it going. You have issues with loss of farmland to sale, development and such which makes it a big challenge. We’ve got to figure out how to double the food supply by 2050 so we’ve got to research, research research. We do grow more on less land but even that is not enough so we need to find a solution.”

Most people would never realize that we will have a food crisis in the next forty-seven years. Indeed I also never expected that statement during the interview, but it makes perfect sense. As farmers grow older and land is snapped up by development or sold off little or no new farmland is being dedicated and a handful of corporations seek to own it all. In short we’ve got a bit of a problem and call this the canary in the coal mine. The challenge is the changing of minds people want change but they don’t want to wait for it. Lowering the cost of real fresh organic and local food takes time and significant changes to the buyer’s market. But for now it seems all organic will cost more because it’s in theory harder to grow.

The reality is that this is not in any way true as has been proven in three successive years of test garden operations where it costs me per pound the same or slightly less than it costs at the supermarket per pound of food. This leads to a conversation from a few weeks back at the Market booth where I found myself verbally sparring with someone who was determined to talk smack about organic and what it meant. The conversation started with the usual greeting and polite conversation as the individual looked at the plants as arrayed on the booth. I told him they were non-GMO, organic with no chemicals used in any phase of production. He responded with a statement that such wasn’t possible. So I said “If it’s not possible what are you holding in your hand right now?” He of  put the collard plant down he was inspecting and said to me “There is no way you grew this organically, organic stuff is typical bull**** to raise prices.” Needless to say I’ll spare all of you the rest of the conversation as it spiraled about over the next half-hour or so with this visitor going on about how he didn’t like organic and so on.  In short it reminded me of a line from an old Supertramp song called Goodbye Stranger.

“Now some they do and some they don’t,
And some you just can’t tell.
Some they will and some they won’t,
And some it’s just as well.”

Some folks are hard set against change and understanding of things that are different that in theory appear to challenge what they consider traditional. This visitor at the booth was one of those sorts, so of course instead of trying to change his mind I switched to taking the legs out from under his arguments. But that aside let me show you all a picture of what a real organic grown tomato actually looks like. The below image is of my prize Paul Robeson Tomato measuring at 8 ounces even it was about as big as two apples side by side.


Oh yes it’s not perfectly round or evenly red or for that matter uniform in any measure of the word, but you can imagine that for nutrient value it blows the doors off those perfectly round red balls that pass for tomatoes at the supermarket and it required precisely zero pesticides or herbicides to produce. I imagine that if we were to produce more nutritious food per square mile without the need for chemicals the environment’s health as well as our own would improve. But, let us see what an organic tomato looks like on the inside as this earlier pair of Underground Railroad tomatoes sliced and prepared for addition to chili.

For note, I decided to take the picture after some of it was added to the pot.

Note the color of the flesh is very dark crimson and the lack of excessive gel, seed and some such, here we have tomatoes that could said to have a lot of ‘meat’. Since this came out of my back yard most if not all of the nutritional value is still present. But more so I have a tiny chemical footprint because in reality other than water runoff and organic fertilizer residue the land upon which the test garden sits only gets better every year. This alone is what organic really means, stewardship of the land, helping nature do what it does best and preserving a balance of coexistence between you and nature.  It’s going to become important in the coming years as the economy will likely continue to stagger and stumble and the population‘s food needs increase while something has to be done to counter the loss of our countries greatest resource. It’s clear we can’t keep importing basic food stables any more then we can keep growing non-productive food crops for ethanol and so on. The diet of the country must adapt, and we too must adapt or risk succumbing to the changes in our world. The choice is simple enough, risk becoming an anecdote for failure to future generations or become the first world nation that embraced critical changes and blazed a trail towards continental sustainability that other large nations could readily follow.

But moving on from the organic debate, this weekend I will be at the Fayetteville City/Farmers market on Saturday. The Fayetteville farmer’s market is located at 325 Franklin Street on the property of the Fayetteville transportation museum. The market runs between the hours 9:00 am and 1:00 pm and you can find my both over by the art studio side of the market. As always the plant list for this week is below:

6x Spineless Prickly Pear

Salad & Fixings:
3x Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
2x Cilantro

Cole Crops:
3x Georgia Collards
7x Morris Heading Cabbage-Collards
2x Stonehead Cabbage
2x Charleston Wakefeild Cabbage
2x Savoy Cabbage
1x Mustard-Spinach ‘Senposai’
1x Napa Cabbage

Available Soon:
00x Swiss Chard

With exception to a final note about precipitation and weather this brings this episode of LITFM to a close. As you may have noticed we had one major frost on Wednesday evening where wind and cold conspired to kill all tender crops where they sat even when semi-protected by proximity to structures and stonework. This came on the heels of Tuesday’s sleet which signaled the end of the warm season crops. Unfortunately the sleet produced negligible precipitation to the point there was nothing worth measuring in the rain gauges. At the test gardens, the cosmos, basil, Meringa, tomatoes and eggplant were all stricken down. We are in a presumably brief warming trend with no freezing temperatures in the immediate future so that means you as gardeners can wring a few more weeks of planting with an careful eye on the weather forecast.

As always folks, Keep ‘em growing!

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