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Agrarian Harvest

Wholesome. Organic. Experience. All about our farm, food, and small farm life.

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winter squash

Does Organic Mean What You Think it Means?

When we started farming, we followed the organic rules for years before we actually certified. The first and second years of certification were very simple. The third year was very irritating. They decided to audit our winter squash; asking how many acres we had. Guess they are not used to dealing with small producers and also did not read the application documentation that provided the information they were asking about.  I told them that we had 200 plants. They said that they could calculate that out. They asked how much we harvested. I showed them my sales records. They then asked how much I had stored. I told them that I only harvested what was sold. Anything left over after frost became pig food. They wanted to know how much the pigs ate. I answered honestly and said I did not know. This was a big problem for them. My records were not audit-able according to them since I didn’t weigh every squash left in the field. Should I have lied and said some random number of pounds? They issued my certificate in spite of my failure to weigh every rotten squash that the pigs ate. Multipurpose ground like cropland and grazing is too complicated for inspectors or their expectation of farmers is industrial.

Since I started certifying organic, my inspection was done in the spring and all of my fees were paid before July. This allowed me to apply for assistance with certification prior to an October 31 deadline. This year I was inspected in late summer and did not receive a bill prior to the October 31 deadline and will not be eligible for the assistance. That will cost this farmer around $700; that’s a lot of tomatoes. My certifying agency claimed that there were a lot of new farms wanting to certify and our inspection was late because they wanted to get the new facilities done first. So to the back burner I go, behind the mega dairies and corporate farms looking for the big money.

Another item of concern this year is that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted to allow hydroponic and aquaponic production into the Organic program. This means that soil is not required. If soil is not required the plants can only get nutrients from the farmer. There are no healthy soil microorganisms, no fungi, no bacteria, no beneficial life forms to help release micronutrients to the plants. If the nutrients are not provided in the system they cannot end up in our food to nourish us. There are also no microorganisms or adequate sun exposure to breakdown or compete with harmful products or bacteria. Yes, beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil can protect us against harmful organisms.

So what does the Organic Label mean to me? At this point, I am in limbo. Most of our customers know who we are. They know our practices and are welcome to come inspect anytime they want and would likely buy from us even if we dropped our certification. We are after all a very small farm. At 17 acres, we actually consider ourselves market gardeners. Our production can be large enough though that we need some larger outlets like restaurants and grocery stores. These customers typically look for the Organic Certification when paying our prices. Their customer do not know who we are and thus depend on a third party verification that we are following acceptable methods of food production. But do the consumers actually know what Organic means? Do they know that their product may be raised in a chemical soup provided by a hydroponic system?  Do they know that broad spectrum chemicals like Neem oil that are approved for use as an insecticide in organic production?  Do they know that farms (big farms) can petition to get chemicals accepted because their system is broken and they want to resort to a chemical to “fix” their problem?

At our farm, we have had infestations, some were fixed by an army of lady bugs and others resulted in destroyed crops. We are diverse and learn to roll with it and try to use crop rotation and plant selection to avoid future problems. When you are a mega farm in a mono crop system, you are not as agile and go back to the bottle at the first sign of stress.

We want to call out consumers. What do you think of when you purchase food? Are you looking for the best price? Are you looking for nutrient density? Are you looking for pesticide-free? Are you looking for humane animal husbandry? Do you care about the people who grow your food?  Do you want to know the farm your food came from or is it just the labeling that matters? Does your food come with a warranty?

“Off-Season” Work

Fall was way too short. It felt like we had a week of Fall and then went straight into Winter. Maybe it’s because the farmers markets are over, we’re exhausted and quickly go into hibernation mode. But, most likely, it’s the weather. It got way too cool too quick for this warm-weather-loving- body. We’d prefer our fall consisting of three months of 70 degree days. Most of our days are now cool and blustery; and it’s snowing while I type this. With all the leaves off the trees, looking bare and cold, it give us a chill  just looking out the window. But out we must go, there is work to do still.

Since the our growing season is over for the year, we will be spending our days in the field doing farm clean up. This consist of mowing the froze plants, pulling up the plastic row cover and tilling the plant debris into the soil. And the chore of pulling hundreds of t-post out of the ground that were used to stake the tomatoes up. Then there are tasks that need to be done before seeds can be planted for next year like replace the plastic on the cold-frame and, possibly, put another cold-frame up.  

There is also planting to do, believe it or not. It is time to plant garlic. It has to overwinter 20160729_224038in the ground to be ready to harvest by July or August next year. So, hopefully, the weather will hold out, meaning no snow . . . . but since that is already happening, maybe the ground won’t freeze hard as a rock just yet. We are trying to brace ourselves for winter, since we keep hearing that this winter is forecast to be worse than last year. We are just not ready for snow and cold and neither is the farm. Really . . . . we could skip winter this year or spend the whole winter on a warm beach.

November Happenings:

  • Besides the farm clean-up, we look forward to Thanksgiving and eating lots of warm, delicious food.
  • We still have winter squash, pie pumpkins, onions, dry beans, honey, eggs, pork by the cut, beef by the cut, whole chickens, and whole ducks for sale.
  • We are taking orders for whole or half pigs. The butcher dates are set and have limited quantity of pigs available.

Feeling the Change

I live by the seasons. Really,  I didn’t give much thought to the seasons before I was a mother. I just lived day to day wanting everyday to be a summer day that I could lay in the sun reading a book. Then I became a mother and discovered the seasons of motherhood; the season of newborn, season of milestones, toddler season. I now feel I’m in school-age season; feel like I’ve been in this season for a long time and now realize I’m about to enter the season of having a teenager. I once had a friend tell me, “It’s just another season of life; it will pass.”

The seasons of the year and motherhood do pass, sometimes all too quickly and sometimes slower than we would like. But then when you look back you wonder where the time or days have gone. How did it go by so fast? Our summer was like that. There was so much work to do and so many markets and deliveries to make, we didn’t know how we’re going to make it through the days. We wondered how we were going to manage until October and not collapse from exhaustion before the first frost and life would slow down again.  And now looking back, I’m wondering where my summer went. How could it be gone already? I’m feeling sad . . . .  I want summer back! Just like I want back the seasons of early motherhood. . . . . it’s just gone too fast.

We are feeling the change from summer to fall. The nights are crisp and cooler, days are cooler too, plant production is slowing down, kids are back to school, the pumpkins are turning, the wheat fields around us have been thrashed, early potatoes have been dug, storage potatoes are being dug and silage corn is being chopped. And the hopes or fears of first frost are in the air. It’s definitely the feel of fall. A welcoming season with the colors of orange, red and yellow, cups full of warm drinks and the smell of pumpkin spice in the air.

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Welcome Fall . . . . .  the slow-down season for us. My new favorite season.

 

September & October Happenings

  • Harvest winter squash & pumpkins
  • Most of the produce will slow its production or stop producing altogether. It will soon be the last of the corn, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, melons & basil for the year.
  • Our first frost, then the tomatoes & peppers will done for the year also.
  • Farm clean-up: weeds to be mowed & row cover to be picked up

First Frost

We had our first frost last week, signalling the end of the growing season. We had plans of covering all our tomatoes with a cloth cover to protect them and keep them growing later into the fall. But the plants had slowed way down on producing, the wind was blowing (which would of made it extremely had to keep them covered if we could of got the cover on), and we were extremely tired. So we didn’t cover anything, which means no more tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers or zucchini. However, we did pick everything on the plants before they froze. We do have lots of peppers available if you want to freeze any or to freeze stuffed peppers for a quick healthy meal this winter. We also have 6 cases of tomatoes left mostly romas and san marzanos.

In the weeks to come we will still have kale, swiss chard, celery, carrots, small onions, sugar pie pumpkins, winter squash, parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, eggs, handmade soap, laundry detergent, chicken, pork and beef.

The first frost and fall also means the end of farmers’ market season. The Hailey Farmers’ Market ended with the last market on October 13th. The last Twin Falls Farmers’ Market is on October 29, which will consist of a harvest festival too with lots of fun activities for kids. Although, the markets are ended doesn’t mean we will disappear until Spring. We will still be making regular deliveries to the Wood River Valley and Twin Falls. You can email or call us to put in an order and we will schedule a delivery time with you. You can also have your email added to our mailing list and we will keep you up to date on what is available and when we will be planning delivery dates in your area.

 

 

Produce And New CSA Opportunity Available

Farmers’ Market may be over, but you can still get fresh, local, organic produce all winter long!

AGRARIAN HARVEST has produce, eggs, meat and other products available all year round. At the moment, we have organic eggs, winter squash, pumpkins, kale, swiss chard, garlic, broccoli, turnips, diakon radishes, cabbage, celery, pork, chicken, herbs, soap, laundry detergent, herbs and more. Visit our product pages to get a full list of products and availability. We will have whole, frozen chicken; pork by the cut; whole pigs and eggs all winter long. As for all the produce, it will be available until we sell out of the pumpkins, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, cabbage, turnips, diakon radishes, celery, beets and herbs. The broccoli, kale, swiss chard will be available until it freezes too hard for these plants. Some winters, like last year, we have kale all winter long.  We start growing greens and radishes in our cold frame during the winter so they will be available in early, early spring. So whenever you are in need of fresh produce, check with us first.

Also, we will be offering CSA shares this coming year. There will be two different sizes of produce CSA and a meat CSA with multiple pick-up locations to pick from. If you are interested in buying a CSA and want to the guarantee that you will get a box of fresh, organic, wholesome produce every week, contact us to sign up. Watch for our CSA page later this month for details.

E-mail us at myfood@agrarianharvest.com or call/text us at (208) 308-5332. You can visit us at our farm in Buhl to get product any day of the week or we deliver to Twin Falls on Wednesdays.

Produce Has Slowed, But Life Has Not

The days have cooled and are shorter. It’s been raining off and on most of the week which seems to slow us down. It’s now too cool to sleep with windows open at night, at least it is for us. The house is chilly in the mornings causing us to start our days a little slower. The kids like to start their day curled up in a blanket on the couch doing their reading lesson before breakfast. After breakfast, I busy myself with a baking project or canning to warm the house and take the chill off. It’s the start of another busy September day of harvesting, canning and homeschooling.

While the produce is slowing down getting ready to die off and be done for the year, our lives are still very busy in this season. There is the harvest of the red beans to be done. They have been cut and are waiting to be thrashed when the rain stops and they dry out. There is still the major harvest of the pumpkins, winter squash, daikon radishes, turnips and beets to be done. Most of the late season produce is slowing down except the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. They are still growing and producing strong. We are about done with picking beans for the season, the sweet corn, kohlrabi and cabbage are about gone, and the cucumbers, zuchinni, summer squash have slow their production significantly. The broccoli is about done for the season due to an aphid infestation.

September starts our fall juggling act as I like to call it. We are still harvesting and selling, there is more canning to be done, all the regular inside work and laundry needs to be kept up with along with all the yardwork. Then we add another year of homeschooling into the mix. The Other Half takes on most of the harvesting duties as of September. And I focus on getting the canning done and the family back into our fall and winter routine.

Although, September is busy it feels like life and tasks are slowing down. We are getting settled down for the year and getting ready for the cooler weather. It feels good to be settled! Although, I wish it would stay warm all year, but instead, we are forced to prepare for cooler temperatures and fall.

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