Dollars and Sense

Some times you see a news headline that you just need to reread because as you read it, you can feel the world start to shift into something different than before. This morning, that headline was:

Amazon is Buying Whole Foods in $13.7B Deal

It’s too early to unpack what this could mean for Whole Foods customers, obviously we hope for lower prices on our favorite organic brands–but it does put a significant portion our food system in the hands of yet another giant, a giant that is competing with Apple and Google in a race to be the first company valued at a trillion dollars.

But let’s say it does mean we get to save a couple bucks here and there, is that where to true value is? I wonder what it would look like if we started doing valuations on our communities. When farmers spend money on inputs which are locally produced and consumers buy food which is locally grown, the money which would have otherwise gone outside of the region now stays within. Here are some findings from a 2004 study of southeast Minnesota’s farming community:

  • the study found that a yearly average of $800 million was leaving the community as a result of farmers purchasing out-of-state inputs and consumers purchasing food produced via industrial agriculture
  • if 15% of those food dollars were shifted to regional farms,the community could generate $45 million in income
  • $45 million in income ultimately would contribute $88.5 million to the area’s overall economy.
  • Researchers estimate that roughly 2000 new jobs and $200 million in new income would be generated if state farmers sold only 3 times more produce in-state than out.

In Michigan, roughly $1.9 billion is spent yearly on fresh produce which is grown out of state, despite the fact that the state grows the second largest variety of produce nationwide.

Research conducted in other states demonstrated similar statistics:

  • In Seattle, shifting 20% of food dollars toward local farms would result in nearly $1 billion dollars being added to the local economy each year.
  • Illinois found that its citizens spend $48 billion on out-of-state food annually, while most farms in the state grow commodity crops for export. Estimates indicate that a 20% increase in local food production,processing, and purchasing would generate an astonishing $30 billion statewide.

Termed the “local multiplier effect”, this powerful economic impact is largely due to the fact that locally owned businesses are more likely to re-spend their money in the community. Indeed, a growing body of research indicates that a dollar spent on a locally owned business circulates 2 to 4 times more in the community compared to that same dollar spent at a non-local business.

The other truly great thing, you really don’t have that much impact on the valuation of Apple, Google, or Amazon. I doubt they’d miss you. But you absolutely have a powerful impact on your local community, because every dollar spend locally, multiplies. Way to get bang for your buck!

Langwater Farm

All Things Have a Season

Oliver de Serres (1539-1619) once said, “A thriving household depends on the use of seasonal produce and the application of common sense.”

Putting a home-cooked healthy dinner on the table with any regularity is a challenge, whether you are a food writer, chef, farmer, stay at home mom, a commuter, part-time or full-time worker-bee. The struggle is real for all of us. The most common complaints are:

  • I hate staring into the fridge at 6pm,trying to decide what to have
  • I’m so bored with my repertoire, we eat the same thing over and over
  • My children are always whining about what I’ve made for dinner
  • I just don’t have time
  • I’m not a good cook

I read somewhere that since the advent of cooking shows on TV, the number of people who cook regularly has declined, which is interesting. You would think people would be inspired! What has happened, I think, is that cooking shows have raised the bar of what we think is expected, and now, unless we are performing Jamie Oliver or Rachel Ray type feats in the kitchen, we feel like underachievers.

The truth is, there is no secret genie. No magic unicorn answer. Until the visions of star trek producers are realized and we can push a button on a replicator, wait two seconds, and open the door to a steaming roast beef and gravy dinner, we are on our own.

Here is the another truth: every option has it’s pros, and it unfortunately, also has its cons. Whether it is a microwaved dinner (processed, not fresh, stored in plastic, often full of preservatives)  a meal-kit you just need to assemble (packaging nightmare, environmental impact is awful, and it’s expensive by comparison), a farmer’s market trip (getting there in a window time frame can be challenging), or a drive to the grocery store (not the fresh food ideal, food often shipped from far) at the end of the day, no matter how tired you feel, good fresh food takes work.

This brings us to the final truth. It’s all in the planning. If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.

It is for this reason that I am so excited to introduce Cook the Seasons. Here’s why, after test-driving many, many products, including the meal kit offerings, we picked Cook the Seasons to share with you:

  • It supports all the food ethics we hold dear: meals based on local, seasonal, farm fresh fruits and veggies
  • It is completely flexible, you can tailor it to what you like to eat, all the while considering what is coming in your delivery
  • Cook The Seasons puts left overs to good use with ‘Reinvention Recipes’
  • It’s easy to use
  • The recipes are super simple, with a casual elegance that allows you to be Rachel Ray, and make it look just as easy! And delicious!
  • Lia doesn’t just give you assembly instructions, she supports each season with a ‘how to stock you pantry for spring’ and ‘kitchen equipment you will need this season’, plus other wonderful tips on which oil to use, or how to de-glaze a pan. You will actually learn to cook.
  • You can make cooking a family affair, and get everybody into the kitchen with you
  • You actually spend less and less time in the kitchen as the week wears on and you lean on ingredients you’ve already prepared
  • You save money

All this for only $55 for three months, AND Lia has generously offered all SSO customers $20 discount with the coupon code SOUTHSHORE. And, we are so confident it will help you use up every morsel in your green box, that we too will give all customers who join us a $10 credit to their account.

Seriously, what have you got to lose?

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The Dish on Meal Kit Companies: Farmers

With all the ‘farm goodness’ on marketing materials, we asked if meal kit companies deliver on their ‘small farm’ promise, the results were not that surprising:

Menu’s Are Not Regional, or That Local

Large meal kit companies are sourcing and shipping raw ingredients nationally and internationally, and distributing the end product all across the USA. “There’s less carbon emitted to aggregate meat on a shipping container on a boat from New Zealand than if we were driving it from Nebraska to Chicago,” says Matthew Wadiak about grass-fed beef, Matthew is Blue Apron’s 38-year-old chief operating officer and one of its three co-founders.

In an article written by Brian Barth for Modern Farmer, Plated, which boasts “farm-sourced seasonal ingredients,” did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. HelloFresh, which makes a similar claim [about fresh ingredients from nearby farms], replied to inquiries via an email statement—“we source a growing percentage of our produce direct from growers”—yet provided no details regarding that percentage or those growers.

A Culture of Mono-cropping

Mono-cropping is hundreds of acres under a single crop which is terrible for biodiversity and genetic diversity. Meal kit companies have become so successful, and are dealing in such large quantities (8,000,000 meals a month in the case of Blue Apron), that when they need chard for a recipe, they need 40,000 pounds of it. This runs counter to the small farm ideal, supported by locals through CSA’s, Farmers Markets, and businesses like ours. A diverse farm with many different crops minimizes the risk and exposure for farmers against catastrophe. If one crop fails, another is likely to be successful. Diverse farms are also key to the genetic viability of our food system, and are also home to a greater number of insects and wildlife, all vital in lowering the environmental impact of agriculture and creating a system that is healthier, more robust, and more sustainable.

Local Farm Economics

Spending money locally improves local economy. To have the same economic impact and job creation, you would have to spend three times as much with a chain store, and even more with a business that isn’t based in your neighborhood, but instead, is shipping to its end users.

Although meal kit companies report to pay ‘somewhere between wholesale and retail’ prices for food from small farms, in our experience this has not been the case. For example, Markristo Farm who works with our counterpart, Berkshire Organics out in Western Mass, was approached to grow the above mentioned 40,000 pounds of Swiss chard, the price he was offered for it was 80 cents per pound. At South Shore Organics we pay anywhere between $1.75 and $2.50 per bunch of Swiss chard, depending on the farm and the time of year. A vastly different price point. Eighty cents is well below the wholesale price, and not viable for smaller farms relying on labor and not machines to harvest and wash crops.

What if the crop was a couple weeks late due to a cool start to the summer season, the meal kit company could reject the entire crop. What would a farmer with 24 acres do with 40,000 pounds of Swiss chard?

Food Waste

These companies promise ‘no waste’, however, we have already addressed the abhorrent plastic waste in our blog ‘The Dish on Meal Kit Companies: Packaging’. And food waste? Menus and recipes prepared by these meal kit companies rely on perfect portioning as well as simplicity to be successful. The cabbage can’t be too big, or too small, neither can the apple, or the leaf size of the kale. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is not a drive-through order window, and she loves allowing things to grow at their own rate.

Similarly, meal kit companies do not accept wiggly carrots, because it makes them more challenging for their customers to peel. Or misshapen green peppers. Or green peppers that have already started to blush red. The waste is real, you just don’t get to see it.

Our customers know we include potatoes of all sizes, wiggly carrots, and funky green peppers. These perfectly edible vegetables are not rejected and destined for the compost heap because they don’t conform to size, weight, and aesthetic standards of a recipe card.

Food Ethics

And what of the ‘food miles’ solution suggested by the recent surge in hyperlocal meal-kit companies? Wadiak of Blue Apron would argue that they sacrifice mass reach for ideology. Apparently they are mutually exclusive. Mass Reach vs. Ideology. Which side are you on when it comes to food?

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Source (quoted): Modern Farmer, Meal Kit Mania – Unpacked, and conversations with farmers

Save

Letter From the Daily Table

To: South Shore Organics

Dear Pam,

daily-table-2Thank you for your generous donations to Daily Table in 2016! Through those donations, we were able to continue offering affordable and nutritious food to our community. In recognition of your support, we are pleased to award  you a key supplier certificate.

2016 was a big year here at Daily Tbale. Last June, during our one-year anniversary celebration, hundreds of customers shared with us how the food they bought at Daily Table had positively affected their lives. Over and over again we heard how delicious the food was and how our shoppers appreciated our healthy products at affordable prices. One customer said:

“I shop at Daily Table because there is always a different selection. Daily Table takes all the stress out of shopping because I don’t have to compare prices or make sacrifices–and I know its always healthy!”

Her observations are reflected in the numbers. We are now averaging 300 different items in the store (as compared to only 100 when we first opened). Our average daily customer count is up by 100 over the previous year. We have rescued almost one million pounds of food, to date, selling more than 15,000 servings of healthy and affordable food every day this year in our upbeat, clean, and friendly retail store in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Together, we are providing a meaningful, and dignified, solution to food insecurity.

2017 promises to be an even bigger year. We recently signed the lease for our second location, in the Dudley Square neighborhood of Roxbury, expected to open early summer. We are excited through our continued partnership to bring nutritious products at truly affordable prices to a new community.

Your donations make all the difference. Thank you again for being a key supplier for Daily Table.

With gratitude and wishes for a happy and successful New Year,

Doug Rauch, Founder and President

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About Daily Table:

Daily Table is a not-for-profit retail store that offers tasty, convenient, and affordable “grab-n-go” ready to eat meals, and a selection of produce, bread, dairy and grocery items all at prices designed to fit within every budget.  The store is clean and friendly, and open to everyone in the community.  We can offer these daily values by working with a large network of growers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and other suppliers who donate their excess, healthy food to us, or provide us with special buying opportunities. In this way, Daily Table keeps prices affordable for all our customers.  Our meals are priced to compete with fast food options, making it easier for families to eat healthier within their means.

About Our Donations:

We made weekly donations of fresh fruit and veggies from local farms all year long in 2016. Daily Table is essentially an oasis in what is considered a food desert, we love their mission, and are delighted that on behalf of our customers, we could support their mission to improve access to healthy food. We made a difference.

Staff Review: Smoothie Mix Micro Greens

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Reviewer:  Pamela Denholm

Micro greens have the reputation of being a wonder  food. They are potent, offer as much as 100 times more beneficial enzymes in than in regular veggies, contain 10 times the anti-oxidants, and are rich in minerals and vitamins that are easy for us to absorb. Essentially, sprouts and shoots contain everything needed for (new) life.

Micro greens from 2 Friends Farm look so fresh and green and vibrant, I was dying to try them and eventually settled on the Smoothie Mix to bring home last week. The same last week of Friday the 13th, and a full moon.

I have to say, right off the bat, that the smoothie portion is generous. If you are adding a handful of micro greens to your smoothie each morning, the clam shell they offer will last about a week. And although it is the ‘smoothie mix’ – it looked like such a nice blend of different micro greens I decided to try a couple different things with it:

  1. Sandwich – I put the micro greens  on a wrap, with cucumber, cottage cheese, grated carrot, and green beans.
  2. Salad – I didn’t have salad greens so added grape tomatoes, cucumber, left over roast chicken, and a drizzle of olive oil to a handful of micro greens for lunch
  3. Smoothie – an orange (peeled), frozen banana, micro greens, and 1 inch peeled ginger

Of course, as I eluded, it was Friday the 13th, the moon was a full, brightly lit round orb. ‘The Wolf Moon’ no less. And guess what? My Vitamix gave up the ghost. That is, it kicked the bucket and went to blender heaven. What the heck!?!  I was committed (to doing this, not to an institution) so after a couple minutes of mild panic and dismay at my recent loss, I threw all the ingredients in my regular blender which made it a little lumpier than usual, but still very enjoyable.

img_4457I really enjoy smoothies, but I am fussy about the flavors. I don’t like it when they taste too ‘grassy’, which can sometimes happen with greens. And I don’t love it when they taste like peas either, which is why I tend not to use pea shoots in smoothies – it is a difficult flavor to mask. But these micro greens which are a blend of pea shoots, baby kale, and other micro greens, were just perfect and not at all overpowering. My smoothie may not have been very ‘smooth’ (RIP Vitamix), but it did go down well and I am eager to make it a morning ritual because it is a no fuss way to get those nutrient dense greens in! They were equally enjoyable in the salad and on the wrap – no need to limit yourself just because the label says ‘smoothie’.

Now I’m off to get on to Vitamix to see if we can do an emergency air-lift. Cross fingers that a full recovery is possible, otherwise I’ll be back on Craigslist hoping somebody’s  New Year’s resolutions dissolved into a ‘Vitamix for sale’ post.

About 2 Friends Farm:

Two friends, who share passion for fresh young greens, sprouted the seed of an idea into a busy, indoor farm growing organic microgreens and wheatgrass  in rich, fertile soil year-round!

“We are organic farmers, consciously growing fresh, beautiful microgreens and wheatgrass, promoting a lifetime of health for your family and ours,” say Ashley and John, Founding Friends.

About Pam:

I believe the healthiest thing for you, is a healthy relationship with food. I enjoy cooking and trying all sorts of things, and have a kitchen full of life that needs sustaining from scoby’s to yeasty bread starters. It is a real treat to have good quality micro greens in my kitchen too, without having to add a tray of young sprouts that would also require maintenance and care.

The Meaning of Life

By Pamela Denholm

I just finished a book by Catherine Goldhammer, who lives here  on the South Shore, titled ‘Still Life With Chickens’ (see, even my authors are local). I enjoyed the book very much, it was a quick, light, relatable read, and the perfect thing to pick up at this time of year. For me anyway.

The business climate during the last quarter was one of the most challenging I have experienced, ever. It felt like the elections consumed every airwave and soundwave, it was saturating to the point where we had no choice but to be submersed until the the tide receded allowing us all to breathe again. Speaking about it to a long-time farmer, he nodded sagely, confessing that in his 30 years of growing, election years were always his worst business years. So I was very happy to welcome 2017, not an election year.

It did make me think, however, about what a wonderful gift a New Year is. It is a clean slate. A reset button. An opportunity to open the door. And in the Northern Hemisphere, it coincides with the very beginning planning stages of the growing season. Another reset button. Farmers are amazingly resilient, optimistic creatures. Despite last years late frost, severe drought, winter moth infestation, seeds that failed to germinate, aphids that dined on Brussels sprouts, borers that attacked roots, farmers eagerly await seed catalogs and thumb through packets of saved seeds dreaming of possibility.

The very act of planting a seed, is one of hope.

On hope, Catherine Goldhammer writes, “…maybe that’s all there is. Maybe that’s what Yo-Yo Ma gives us, and Bach, and Puccini, and the faces of our children, our friends, our families, good work, the ocean, the moon rising over the pond, the havens of our homes.”

And seeds. And a new year.

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About Pamela

From the highveld of southern Africa to the low lying marshes of the South Shore, Pam has learned that regardless of what lies before you or behind you, if you have a seed to plant, the face of a child to gaze upon, or a rising moon, you have tomorrow.

OCTOBER COOKING CHALLENGE : Week 1, Meal 1 – Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Calzones

These are easier than you think, and quite delicious! I decided to do the calzones first because I didn’t want to keep the pizza dough too long. This recipe uses a bunch of the greens, and it is a good idea to prioritise use of greens first.

I asked my driver to deliver my order to my home on Friday, and I brought it inside later in the day when I got home. I did this because I wanted ‘the customer experience’. These greens have been sitting in my fridge since Friday. One of the reasons they keep their freshness is because they are stored in Vejibags. Greens in plastic bags never work, but wrapped in soft, organic, wet cotton toweling they will keep for at least ten days.

Ingredients:img_3861

1lb sweet potatoes

1 bunch swiss chard

1 head lettuce

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 lemon

1 green pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1lb pizza dough

4oz Atwells Gold cheese

8oz Poblano Farm pasta sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil

Step 1 – Prepare Vegetables (10 minutes)

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Before you begin, preheat oven to 475 degrees

 

Peel and dice sweet potatoes

De-stem and chop up chard

Slice cherry tomatoes in half

Shred lettuce by hand

Cut half a lemon into wedges

Mince garlic

Core and dice pepper

Dice cheese

Step 2 – Sauté (15 minutes)

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Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat

Add sweet potato and garlic, sauté for ten minutes

Add swiss chard, keep over heat until wilted

Add 1/5 the jar of pasta sauce and remove from heat

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3 – Assemble Calzones (10 minutes)

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Dust flat surface with flour, divide dough into four balls

Roll ball out flat until it is about the size of a side plate

Dust baking sheet with flour, lay out flat dough

Spoon sweet potato and chard onto one side, add blocks of diced cheese

Fold over, and press edges closed with a fork

Tip: I assembled these on the baking sheet so that I wouldn’t have to move them once assembled because they are soft

Step 4 – Bake Calzones, Assemble Salad (18 minutes)

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Bake calzones in heated oven for 16 to 18 minutes

Add tomatoes and green peppers to lettuce (I had some left over cheese, so added that as well)

For the dressing, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil with juice from lemon wedges and season with salt and pepper

I had enough time to clean up, stack the dishwasher and wipe down the counters once the salad was made so the kitchen was clean before plating the food

 

 

Step 5 – Plating The Food (2 minutes)

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Four plates – each get their own calzone and dressed salad

Divide the remaining pasta sauce between the four plates for dipping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Analysis

Assessment: Terrific Meatless Monday meal. It was very filling, everybody cleaned their plate. The dipping sauce was nice to have because the parts of the calzone without filling were very dry. I barely tasted the chard which is a plus if you have fussy kids like me. I loved the salad dressing, but then lemon, olive oil, and pepper are one my go-to favorites.

Total time: 55 minutes

Mess factor: one large pan and a baking sheet (and lots of bowls if you are photographing the process LOL)

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Waste: I saved the chard stems, garlic peels, pepper core and stem, and the sweet potato peels for a veggie stock later in the week.

I composted the cardboard pint container, lemon tips, and outer lettuce leaves.

I put the elastics from the chard and the tomatoes in my office drawer to reuse.

Not featured is the glass jar from the pasta sauce – it was in the dishwasher!

It was just the plastic the cheese was wrapped in, and the bag the dough came in that needed to be recycled.

 What’s Left Over for the Week?

1 spaghetti squash

4 ears corn

1 bunch radishes

2lb sweet potatoes  1lb sweet potatoes

1 bunch brussel sprout leaves

1lb sweet peppers 2 sweet peppers

1lb green beans

1 fennel bulb

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 green leaf lettuce 1/2 a green leaf lettuce

1 bunch swiss chard

1.2lb chicken thighs from Feather Brook Farm

8oz Atwells Gold cheese from Narragansett Creamery 4oz cheese

16oz pasta sauce from Poblano Farms

1 lemon 1/2 a lemon

8oz of garlic 6oz garlic

1 bunch of cilantro

1lb pizza dough

1 can organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

10oz GMO-free lo mein egg noodles

1 can organic coconut milk

Veggies That Keep On Giving

seed-packetAdapted from Berkshire Organics Newsletter

Many of our customers switch to a fruit basket in the summer, because they have bountiful gardens producing lovely fresh veggies—nothing is more local than that! We often see a frantic flurry of activity at the beginning of the growing season asking about where to buy the best seed, especially seed that is non-GMO, but why not get ahead of the curve this year and save seeds from your delivery and garden for next season’s garden? Whether you’re cleaning & storing the seeds from your favorite heirloom or cherry tomato, or a crunchy sweet pepper, seed saving is a fun way to take part in your own cycle of food growth and consumption!

Although you can save seeds from almost any plant, some are easier than others. Many plants need to literally “go to seed”—where the plant has moved its energy from growing into producing the pod—before you can start to harvest seeds. Biennial plants (such as carrots, beets, cabbages, and parsley) require a second year in the ground for a seed pod to sprout, making it a bigger challenge to save the seeds. Others, however, are quite simple:

Peppers: These are the easiest. When the fruit changes color on the vine, it is fully ripe and the seeds are ready to harvest. Simply cut the pepper open, scrape out the seeds, and let them dry.

Tomatoes: The gelatinous coating on a tomato seed actually acts as a barrier to prevent sprouting inside the fruit, so it must be removed before drying. To do this, the seeds need to ferment inside a closed jar of water for about a week. Swirl the jar twice daily, and by the end of the week your seeds will be ready to rinse and dry.

Melons: Whether muskmelon, honeydew, or watermelon, these seeds are super easy to save! Simply remove them, rinse in a bowl with water (although some experts recommend a dash of natural dish liquid to fully remove the sugar from the seed), and then let dry.

Cucumbers: To harvest cucumber seeds, you first need to leave the fruit to ripen for several weeks. Cut the ripe fruit in half and scrape seeds into a bowl. Scrape them gently against a sieve to remove the coating, or use the fermentation method described above for tomatoes.

Summer Squash: These, too, need to be ripe in order to save the seeds. Once the skin is no longer tender! Cut lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a bowl. Wash them well, drain, and dry.

Potatoes: Keep the latest potatoes of the season; store them in a dry, dark, cool place for the winter where they still have airflow. In the spring, they will start to grow ‘eyes’ which can be cut out and planted individually.

Beans: Allow pods to brown and dry on the vine, about 6 weeks after you’re done eating for the season. If there’s a frost threat, pull the whole vine (roots and all) and hang in a dry, cool place until the pods brown. Crack them open to remove dried beans.

For the best results, experts recommend that you plant open-pollinated and/or heirloom varieties, as they will grow more consistently than a hybrid. It’s also worth remembering that planting 2 or more varieties may result in cross-pollination, so try to keep your plot as far from the neighbor’s as possible—especially if they’re growing GMO seeds. Finally, only collect seeds from your heartiest plants; doing so will help perpetuate a continual line of healthy specimens, resulting in the best produce.

Saving seeds is an important act, and so is sharing seeds. Save more than you need so that you will have some to share, swap, or trade for other seeds you don’t have. Heirloom varieties of seeds came about in just this fashion, through saving and planting and sharing, and it is the best way to preserve the genetic integrity and variety of crops we grow for food.

“Save Vegetable Seeds in Your Backyard.” Mother Earth News. Sept/Oct 1977

“Basic Seed Saving.” International Seed Saving Institute. 2016.

“Beginners Guide to Seed Saving.” Rodale’s Organic Life. 20 May 2015.

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.

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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