Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some FAQ's about our farm and CSA

I have received some similar or related questions from some curious gardeners as well as people that might be interested in the CSA we are offering this season.

First off, I am afraid that some people may not be able to find or figure out the link to the brochure for the CSA. If this is the case, I would be happy to email one to you directly. My email address is: readcarrie@hotmail.com

Now...to answer those FAQ's:

What does the black irrigation tape do?

The black irrigation tape is what we use to water all of the crops in our high tunnel (greenhouse). By using this kind of irrigation we are able to reduce the spread of diseases and rot that are common when growing cool season crops like lettuce and arugala. It is helpful also for when we grow tomatoes in there for disease reduction. By keeping the water dripping onto the ground next to the plants, you reduce the chance of fungal cells or bacterial cells getting spread by water hitting them with force and bouncing up on the plant or to other plants nearby.
Why go organic if you're not certified?
This is an excellent question. My husband and I started farming and worked in health food stores in the years before anyone ever heard of organic certification. I am sure people were getting certified back then (I am talking within the last 12 years, not decades ago). It just wasn't really an issue and then the government got involved and tried to establish rules and regulations that would need to be followed by EVERYONE regardless of the size of your farming operation. That meant that a huge corporate farming operation would have the same certification requirements and fees as the small local farmer. This seemed like an extremely unfair practice to many of us that were involved in the organic/health food industry. This does not even get into the things that are allowed in the USDA certification classification of organic. Things that we just would not allow on our farm....Sewage Sludge For Example. To us it is more important that you know your farmer and his or her practices and their ethics, rather than see a label on a product. I have heard this phrase repeated by several people lately: Local is the New Organic. It is true, really. A greater impact can be made in the vertically integrated food model for our economy, health, and environment by buying locally. Just because you are buying organic milk from the grocery store for example, doesn't mean that the company really upholds your ideals. They may have the same or higher rate of infection, but those cows are taken out of production and go to a conventional milk processing set up. They may be feed organic feed on a feed lot, with little or no access to grass or clean pasture. They are not allowed to give them injections of growth hormones, if they are producing organic milk. The milk that is certified organic travels thousands of miles to get to us here in Missouri and is ultra pasteurized. That means that it retains far less nutritional value than milk produced here. I would much rather buy milk from my local dairy farmer that feeds their cows locally purchased/raised feed, allows them access to pasture that might have fertilizer applied every year or so, allows him or her to make a living or maintain their family farm while still working another job (as most of us have to do), and know that it didn't require hundreds of gallons of fuel to get from California to Here.
Great information on organic certification:
Attra Organic Farm Certification
What kind of soils do you use?
We go back and forth between mixing our own soil mix that included mixing peat, vermiculite, and perlite. We used this method for about 10 years. Other times would use the standard potting mix that is available at most garden centers. This is not considered organic, however because it does contain a wetting agent that is traditionally considered a non-organic ingredient. This past year we used Miracle Grow's Organic potting soil mix. It contains some fertilizer, I believe. We started using that as a matter of convenience, but is by no means an economical choice for large scale seed starting. A note: When you start your own seeds using a mix of peat, vermiculite, and perlite that you mix yourself you will need to establish a fertilization program. We always used fish emulsion. You mix it up with water according to the label for the size of your seedlings to be careful and not "burn" them with too much nitrogen. You can purchase fish emulsion in quart and gallon, and I think 5 gallon sizes. Fish emulsion reeks! so you probably want to look into something else to use as an indoor fertilizer, unless you find the smell of rotten fish guts appealing.

Some other general CSA FAQ's:

How many people do you hope to sign up for this CSA farm?
Our goal is to have 10 people minimum sign up and a maximum of 15 for the season. Right now, we have had about 3 seriously interested people contact us and have had a lot of traffic on the website. It is early and people are just now thinking about fresh produce.
Do you have an idea if the crops grow as planned (not great but not bad, just average)of how much produce that each full share would buy($725)?
In years past, when we grew for some friends in the St. Louis Area and they would meet us at the Clayton Farmer's Market they were paying the same amount and would get 2-3 walmart grocery bags full of produce. Of course it depends on the vegetables that week and how bulky they are. A typical week included: two pounds of tomatoes, a bunch of basil, greens (collard, chard,etc.), 5-6 cucumbers, 5-6 zucchini and other summer squash, 2-3 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of greenbeans, and 3 or 4 peppers. The variety will change, depending on the stage in the season. Early season would be heavier on greens and salad mix, radishes, beets, peas, carrots, spinach.
I don't know how much you plan to plant vs how many people invest in it?
I am planning on planting a large amount regardless of what the CSA does, we have a few wholesale contracts that we will grow for instead or in addition to the CSA. The CSA would not be feasible for us if there are less than 10 families signed up due to processing/packaging/delivering, etc. If you sign up and pay, and we don't get the 10 families we need, you will be completely refunded by late February, early March.
What would be my expected/estimated return of veggies be?
The goal is that you will not to buy produce that is available around here from the store and can build the majority of your meals around the produce we provide. In our household it is me and my husband and our 1year old daughter. We are a family with two small kids and we would eat this amount easily, but most of our meals are heavy on veggies.

If you made it to this point! Congratulations, you have a lot of endurance as a reader and/or are very interested in local foods, veggies, and farming and I welcome you to send me any additional comments or questions you may have to me at mailto:readcarrie@hotmail.com. One more thing, we don't have a tractor and have farmed with horses for the past 10 years, but are at a philosophical crossroads. We could get more done in a shorter period of time with a tractor, but....but...but....more on this next time.

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