Drought Resistant Gardens

I know, I know. If I use the word ‘drought’ one more time in an email or a newsletter, I am going to push people over the edge. I’ve been unrelenting!  But with good reason. I speak to the farmers several times a week, and the updates I have been receiving as the season progresses have not been good. We’ve gone from ‘dams and ponds are at a very low level from minimal snow fall’ in June, to ‘the well has gone dry and we are on town water’ in July. My own garden too is not looking healthy, some plants are holding their own with the dry weather, others might not make it, and I have been taking notes as to which is which. The latest update that came this week, is that the soil is bone dry down to 12” – in other words anything with a shallow root system is going to either go dormant, or die. Like your lawn.

One thing I have noticed, the ant population in my lawn has more than quadrupled this season. I started looking for ‘organic’ ways to get rid of the ants, but soon realized through my research that I would be interrupting nature’s hard work. Those ants, who thrive in hot, dry conditions, were building hundreds of miles of tunnels below ground, and those tunnels help water infiltrate the ground more quickly when it rains. Actually, ants are drought remediation.

The second thing I noticed is that you where the soil in my garden is crumbly in texture, some grains, some small clumps, the plants are faring better. They call this texture aggregate. Crumbly aggregate allows water to travel through the soil more easily, and the soil actually retains water better. Aggregate is closely linked with organic matter. The more organic matter you have in your soil, the better your aggregate is likely to be. Soils that are tilled regularly, or fed with nitrogen based fertilizers instead of organic matter (compost), have their aggregate diminished.

37563348 - hand man holding a gardening tool full with compost for garden

The desired crumbly soil aggregate that retains water best.

To build up better soil, and to build a garden that can weather just about anything, here are some quick tips:

  • Nurture the soil in your garden, feed it compost and manure and AVOID chemical fertilizers (particularly nitrogen and phosphorous), because they have a toxic impact on decomposer organisms and break down good soil aggregate.
  • Use perennial plants and grasses whenever possible. Plants that live longer lives provide better shelter and generally have deeper root systems, which is vital in drawing carbon deeper into the soil and reaching for water when the surface is dry. Deeper roots also keep plants well rooted in high winds.
  • Only use annuals in 10% of your garden for accents, or only use them for temporary cover crops to cover up bare soil (mulches can also be used for this purpose).
  • Use no till methods in your gardens
  • Work towards a biodiverse garden, the more different plant species you have in the garden, the less hard hit your garden will be if you lose a species due to extreme weather one year.
  • Add carbonaceous materials to soils, such as biochar.
  • And of course, create water catchment areas, create basins, gulleys, and swales.
  • Install rain water and grey water catchment systems.

OUR LAWNS CAN BE A PRIMARY TARGET

We all know we should reduce lawn spaces in our gardens.  There are more acres under residential garden and lawn, than farmland in the U.S. – think for a moment on the ramifications of that statement.  We hold our farmers to a high standard, but each of us can have just as big an impact.  Lawns create useful spaces for families to enjoy being outside, so, we have included an info graphic of root systems for your information.  The most common lawn grass planted today is Kentucky Blue Grass, featured far left.  See how short the roots are?  It is not a very efficient carbon trapper, nor is it particularly drought resistant.  It is popularly promoted by grass companies who know you will be coming back for seed year after year.  Compare it to the Buffalo Grass on the far right, which is easily mowed, very drought resistant, and excellent at carbon trapping.

Prairie-grass-roots-2-credit-smallChanges like these are subtle, you do not need to sacrifice beauty for hardiness.

Glyphosate: Not So Easy to Escape

From Berkshire Organics

First releasedround up commercially in 1974, glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as well as DuPont’s Abundit and BASF’s Extreme brands.  After the introduction of “Roundup Ready” soybean crops in 1996, other glyphosate-resistant crops soon emerged—and its corresponding use increased dramatically. Over 20 years later, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in commercial agriculture, and the second most widely used in home gardens—in part due to the misinformation provided by its producers, who have touted their products for years as being rapidly biodegradable and safe for humans and wildlife.  In fact, it was this very promise of safety that kept it from being monitored by the USDA or the FDA. In March 2015, however,  the  World  Health  Organization’s  International  Agency  for  Research  on  Cancer classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. Perhaps in response to this information, the FDA plans to begin testing corn and soybeans within the food supply for glyphosate residue—for the first time ever.

It’s safe to say that these “Roundup Ready” crops will contain glyphosate; however, given the extensive use of the herbicide, it’s also likely to be found in other foods as well. In an effort to get a jump start on this process, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) USA used an accredited independent laboratory to test both organic and conventional versions of 12 popular breakfast foods and ingredients for glyphosate residue: flour, corn flakes, instant oatmeal, bagels, yogurt, bread, frozen hash browns, potatoes, cream of wheat, eggs, non-dairy creamer, and dairy-based creamer. The testing showed that 10 of the sample ingredients (instant oatmeal, conventional and organic bagels and bread, whole grain oatmeal, conventional and organic eggs, organic dairy and organic soy coffee creamer) contained detectable levels of glyphosate, although most were well under the EPA allowable daily intake (ADI) of 1.75 mg per kg of bodyweight.

However most critics are quick to point out that the EPA’s ADI for glyphosate is almost 6 times higher than that of the European Union. Surprisingly, the highest levels of glyphosate residue were found on foods that have no direct contact with the herbicide, including both organic and conventional eggs and dairy-based coffee creamer.  Gretchen DuBeau, executive and legal director for the ANH-USA states that this is likely evidence “…that it’s being passed on by animals who ingest [glyphosate] in their feed.”

Based on the fact that producers have long touted the chemical as being highly biodegradable, she goes on to state that “This is contrary to everything that regulators and industry scientists have been telling the public.” Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that all of the wheat products tested (including those labeled organic) showed detectable levels of the herbicide.  The ANH said that these findings indicate that glyphosate is being sprayed on crops which are not designed to withstand it—but which for some reason are.

It’s also worth noting that glyphosate was up for its 15-year toxicity reassessment by the EPA in the summer of 2015, but action was postponed for one year.  Furthermore, the FDA has stayed conspicuously silent when questioned by the press about the WHO report released last year, and is dragging its heels on the testing of corn and soy products. Meanwhile Roundup, Abundit, and Extreme are being sprayed on a multitude of crops…and subsequently finding their way into every corner of our nation’s food supply. After reporting on the ANH-USA’s findings, naturopathic medical doctor Alan Kavish at the Center of Health recommends the following: “Continue to eat organic foods, and petition the EPA and your government officials to take an interest—not a donation from Monsanto—in reducing our maximum levels of exposures to EU standards.” To this, South Shore Organics would like to add how important it is to know where your food comes from. Supporting local farms and pushing for non-GMO ingredients allows us to continually strive to offer foods that we can all trust are clean.

Gillam, Carey. “Private Tests Show Cancer-Linked Herbicide in Breakfast Foods; FDA Mum on its Assessments.”
The Huffington Post. 19 April 2016.
“Glyphosate Levels in Breakfast Foods: What is Safe?” The Alliance for Natural Health USA. 19 April 2016.
Kadish, Alan. M.D. “Herbicide (Glyphosate) in Your Organic Eggs and Creamer and More.” Center of Health. 20 April 2016

In the Kitchen with Eliot

B - Eliot (3)

Reviewer: Eliot Trowbridge

Eliot is a good person to have on our team, he works hard, has a crispy sense of humor, and likes to stir the pot – it is never dull at work. But these aren’t even the real reasons we like him. Eliot likes to cook and bake, and he likes to share, and we all like to eat. His banana bread is perfectly balanced, but, since this is one of the best eggplant summers ever, it is his eggplant recipe we are going to share today. Eli baked a whole tray of it, and because we are greedy piggies, we ate the whole thing. But not before I took a photograph 😉

Ingredients
2 medium or 1 large eggplant
Maine Grains flour
Feather Brook Farm eggs, lightly scrambled
panko breadcrumbs
olive oil – or for a local option, Full Sun canola oil, non-GMO
2  8oz balls of mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery, sliced thin or grated

Sauce
2 large jars stewed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
canola oil
(to save time, you can also use two large jars of Poblano Pasta Sauce instead of making it from scratch)

Making the Sauce
Heat a little oil on medium heat in a large pot
Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so
Add stewed tomatoes, stir and bring to a boil
Lower heat to simmer

For the Eggplant Parm
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds
Prepare 3 separate bowls for flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs
Heat oil on medium/high in a large skillet – use enough oil so that the eggplant will be at least half submerged during cooking
One at a time, cover each slice of eggplant first with flour, then egg, and breadcrumbs
Fry eggplant until golden brown on both sides and drain cooked slices on paper towel
Using a 9×13 baking pan, spread a light layer of sauce on the bottom
Place eggplant in a single layer over the sauce, cutting pieces if necessary
Cover with a light layer of sauce
Layer sliced or grated cheese
Add another layer of eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella, then bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown

Eli Eggplant Serving

Serve with salad, and, if you are not at work packing customers veggie baskets, a bottle of Chianti or Pinot Noir.

This dish is even better the next day – enjoy with a fried egg for breakfast, or, eggplant sandwiches anyone?

About Eliot:

A bachelor who likes to cook? How can this be? Eliot is just such a unicorn! He also helps us pack baskets, does farm pick ups, deliveries, and keeps team morale up with his sense of humor and good food!

Food by any other name tastes as sweet . . .

get kit offBy Pamela Denholm

For our newsletter this week in considering a topic, my mind flew to the continuing and unrelenting drought (our drought status has been upgraded, and I know of at least five farm wells that have run dry – it’s terrible). Of course, there is also the craziness that is going on with GMO labeling. All the food recalls that have been skirting the news absolutely deserve a platform too. But between the serious state of our food system, and the fiasco that is election season, I thought something a little more light-hearted might be the order of the day. Let’s smile at my expense, or laugh out loud – even better.

When I first decided to move to the USA (I was born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa), the most common response from friends and family was: well, at least you are moving to a country that speaks English, so you won’t have the language barrier. Ha! Really? The first time I shared a traffic story in a bar, describing a moment wherein I was so frustrated I ‘pressed my hooter’ (not blew my horn) at someone, I brought the house down! When you think about it, blowing your horn really does sound a little more risque, but my slip provided my soused (tipsy) companions much entertainment for the rest of the evening. It was pretty funny. Or, tell your boss that your colleague ‘works like a Trojan’ (instead of just calling him hard working) and you will quickly be corrected, learning about the brand name of a certain birth control option in the process. (“Pam, you can’t go around saying things like that! And I thought you were telling me he was not 100% effective.”)

The same is true in reverse, buns are what you put hamburgers on, but where I come from, buns are colloquial for your bottom, i.e. what you sit on. So imagine my horror when somebody asked me to hand over my buns at a barbecue (okay, he was cute, and I actually thought about it except my husband was watching). (Just kidding.)  We call cookie’s biscuits, because the word ‘cookie’ is colloquial for a part of the female anatomy that is private – I blushed six shades of crimson the first time somebody offered me a free choice of cookies.

Those were a few of my more embarrassing slips – there have been many blush-worthy moments as I navigated my new same-language home, and some moments where all I created was downright confusion. Fries are only chips if they are ordered with fish (or in a foreign country), mince is actually ground beef so don’t ask for it any other way, and a trolley is actually a shopping cart.

When I started South Shore Organics, I caught myself a few times slipping up. I once called an eggplant an aubergine – come to find most of our customers took it out of their baskets because they had no idea what it was. Zucchini became baby marrow through distraction (which elicited some concerned responses from our vegetarian customers, and really, who can blame them?) Avocados are avocado pears where I am from, arugula is rocket, cilantro is coriander, scallions are spring onions, beets are beetroots, and rutabagas are (what?!?) swedes (from Swedish turnip) – the first time a farmer had this on the availability list, I had to ask him to send me a sample.

I googled a lot, and relied on the good humor and patience of the people around me. My staff tease me mercilessly, and still frequently call bananas, bah-nah-nahs. Now, for the most part, I can speak American fluently, and even make myself understood at the Starbucks drive-through (but I only go to the one where they know me, otherwise I have to go inside to order), and it is my family back home who now sound funny when they talk.

DARK Act

right to knowBy Pamela Denholm

To get everybody up to speed, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are food products, mostly crops and recently salmon, that have been genetically modified to produce certain traits. Genetic intervention was undertaken because scientists are crossing the species barrier, and inserting genes from an entirely different organism and this cannot be achieved through selective breeding. These foods are in our mainstream food system.

There is a lot of controversy around these genetically modified foods. Many have called into question their safety, and the environmental impact of using GMO’s is of grave concern – evident by the recent discovery that GMO Canola plants, which are wind pollinated, are already mutating. GMO’s are also banned in twenty-six other countries, including Japan, Russia, Germany, France, and Italy. In the U.S. they are now so widely distributed they are hard to avoid. A very public and grassroots movement across California and New England states called ‘Right to Know’, is fighting to have GMO foods in our grocery stores labeled as such (as they are in other countries – England for one). The movement has been gaining momentum, with Vermont to be the first state to actually pass laws around the labeling of GMO products.

However, on July 29th, 2016 President Obama signed bill S.764 into law. This law, called the DARK Act, supersedes Vermont’s GMO labeling law, and it has created a lot of confusion amongst the general public because it is being paraded as a broader, Federal solution to the cry for labeling primarily because it gives the USDA two years to come up with labeling criteria for GMO’s that will be nationally implemented. Sounds like a solution right? Wrong. I’d like to clear up any confusion, and share with you why it’s NOT the solution we fought for and I’ll be concise:

  • DARK Act literally stands for Deny Americans the Right to Know.
  • It excludes most processed foods from the label (most processed foods that contain GMO’s)
  • Companies will not have to declare on the package that the product contains GMO’s, consumers will be required to use phones to scan barcodes and then visit a website, or call a number.
  • There will be no enforcement or penalty if products are not labeled

Looks like they a window dressing solution, doesn’t it? What is upsetting was that a grass roots movement driven by individuals with no hidden agenda was undermined by corporations. Here is how the bill got enacted:

  • 764 began life as “A bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act”
  • That original bill, which had nothing to do with food labeling, was initially passed by the Senate, but since it never made it any further, Sen. McConnell then hollowed out S. 764 and replaced it with a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Then that text was gutted and replaced with the first attempt at outlawing state-level GMO labeling laws by creating a voluntary national labeling standard.
  • When that bill failed – and with the July 1 launch of the Vermont labels approaching – two of the Senate’s biggest recipients of agribusiness money, Sen. Pat Roberts (KS) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) rushed out a “compromise” bill that would eventually create a national standard while outlawing any state-level labeling rules

Because McConnell fast-tracked that bill, it never saw a day in committee, where there would have been hearings involving stakeholders, followed by proposed amendments. Instead, it went straight to the Senate floor, where members from both sides of the political spectrum okayed it with minimal consideration. Call me naïve and idealistic, but fair and equitable process was denied to anybody who fought for their right to know when this bill was enacted last Friday, and it has become more important than ever for anybody who wants the right to know, to vote with their dollar and let their voice be heard.

Resources: Institute for Responsible Technology www.InstituteforResponsibleTechnology.com
Consumerist.com “President Signs a Law…With Barcodes”, July 29, 2016

Cool, Iced, Refreshing

Wendy Morin visited with Michelle Berry from the State of Arizona this summer, and while she was here, she shared a easy, cheap, refreshing, home-brewed beverage we know you will love . . .

“Where we’re from, the sunny state of Arizona, we drink a lot of ice tea.  It’s easy, refreshing and cost way less to make it at home.  While staying with my family in Massachusetts this summer, we made sun tea with Equal Exchange Fair Trade Organic Black Tea just about every other day.

Simply fill a large glass pitcher or container with filtered water.  Add about 4 teabags, submerging the bags while letting the tags hang over the rim.  Cover and place in a sunny spot, early morning is best so you can enjoy it by the afternoon.  Add sugar, honey, or fresh crushed stevia leaves if you like it sweetened.  I like to add fresh or frozen fruit for extra flavor.  A few sprigs of fresh mint from the garden is a nice too.  This is a great way to stay hydrated without any artificial ingredients. Mix it up by switching to other Equal Exchange tea varieties: green, ginger, peppermint, and chamomile.”

S - Iced Tea

WENDY’S RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of filtered water
  • 4 tea bags of choice
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh fruit (optional)
  • 3 sprigs fresh herbs (optional)
  • sugar, honey, or stevia to sweeten (to taste)
  • ice

Method:

  • fill a large pitcher with the water
  • submerge the tea bags
  • add other ingredients
  • cover and place in a sunny spot outside outside for 4-6 hours
  • add ice, enjoy!

Staff Review: T-Bone Steak Seasoned With Coffee Salt

B - KevinReviewer: Kevin Shain

Howdy folks! Kevin here! I’m the guy that packs all of the meat orders every week, so I find it a delicious coincidence that I get to review a T-bone steak with the Coffee Sea Salt from Atlantic Saltworks.

The steaks come individually vacuum wrapped, and ours weighed in at just over a pound and a half. I put a generous amount of the coffee sea salt on both sides of the steak just before putting it on the grill. I cooked it medium rare, as I usually do, and pulled it from the grill and covered it for a few minutes to let it rest.

IMG_3465

It was AMAZING!

The steak exceeded my expectations of what a steak should be, even from a fancy restaurant. It was so tender and delicious, it just melted in your mouth as you were eating it. This T-bone was the best steak I’ve had in ages! The Coffee Sea Salt did not make the steak taste like coffee, instead, the coffee brought out more flavor in the beef in a way that plain sea salt just does not. I will be purchasing more steaks myself, and will be using the Coffee Sea Salt on all of them! Go on, give it a try, I wouldn’t STEER you wrong! (Haha! See what I did there?!)

About Featherbrook Farm:

Tad is very selective, his beef really does offer superior quality because he hand picks healthy animals from an extensive network of conscientious ranchers. These animals are raised right here in New England, are pastured, and have access to ample grain too so they have plenty energy to weather the cold. This is not a large scale operation, this is not a feedlot, it is a small arrangement that supports small family farms and conscientious husbandry. And the proof is in the pudding . . . er . . . steak.

About Kevin:

Drummer, baker, grill master – and Kevin knows every lyric, every beat, every tune, to every song ever written, and is a walking encyclopedia of movie facts too.  A born entertainer (starring in the latest Ghostbusters as a metal head – yes, you can actually see him outside the concert venue) who breaks the occasional drumstick, Kevin is here every Monday and Wednesday folks (we should sell tickets!) and on Thursdays and Fridays, he takes the show on the road. Our show. The green bins I mean. He delivers!