Bug-Lover Walks Onto a Production Farm

“Oooooohh look at this happy little caterpillar I found! I’m just going to move him over to the fennel where he will have plenty to eat, k?”

Not exactly. Although the pollinating butterflies these cuties become are very welcome at organic production farms, their larva stage is better nurtured in say… a nearby demonstration garden or conservancy. Lucky for me, I just landed a gig working in a new Loudon County, VA community, Willowsford, built around conservation, sustainable cultivation, real food, really cool farmers, and a really great garden.

Chances are, I will be doing a lot of posts born from experiences at Willowsford Farm throughout the 2012 growing season so for now, here are the top ten highlights from Week One:

10.) The masterminds behind this community are incredibly down-to-earth, determined, and committed to conservation as much as they are committed to the growth of the farm (in terms of acreage, value-added products, biodiversity, and profitability).
9.) The bees and their keeper are going to be producing local honey and educate the community on the importance of pollinators.
8.) The garden is bonkers amazing and already includes: tons of berry bushes, herbs, fruit trees, tomatoes, flowers, and gated entrances as adorable as the open-air structure slated for a classroom/market/shed.
7.) Somehow, I have not picked up a single tick yet – which leads me to number six…
6.) Not only is there deer fencing around the farm – it is around the garden too!
5.) There are tons of Mexican sunflowers, zinnias, and other butterfly-attracting plants in rows between tomatoes, peppers and other edibles which makes times spent harvesting extra beautiful.
4.) Pretty much all-you-can-eat  fresh and healthy “seconds” all day long.
3.) Everyone I have met is keen on bringing our beloved Eco-Goats out to help clear weeds!
2.) Fellow Farmers: Nick, Jen and Kathryn and Farm Manager Mike Snow are pure sunshine – even in the hardest, back-breaking moments, and have gone far out of their way to teach me tricks of the trade, welcome me to the team, and accept the fact that they may have to kill my share of tomato horn worms.

And the number one thing to come out of Willowsford this week (worthy of a photo):

1.) Husk Tomatoes. Sometimes called “Ground Tomatoes” because you harvest them from the ground once they have fallen off of the plant. If you have not yet tried one, step away from the computer and head to the closest farmers market.

 

July: What’s Growing?

Here in Plant Hardiness Zone 7a, many of us are enjoying our first tomato harvest of the season and keeping a careful eye on the squash and zucchini in order to scoop it into the kitchen before it gets too big and loses that sweetness. Here are a few pics from the past couple of weeks of farm and garden fun that we hope will inspire our readers to head to their local farm market this week!

One of the first Public Health Garden tomatoes (7/5/2012)
First Fish Peppers
Allison’s New Vegetable Garden: Cukes, Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, Melons
Chioggia Beets: Potomac Vegetable Farms 7/6/2012
Nasturtium – Edible Flowers – at the University of Maryland Public Health Garden
Zinnias: All over the place (lucky us!)
Eggplant: Black Beauty – At a Farmers Market near you!
Okra: Another one seemingly capable of doubling in size overnight
Berry-picking season 🙂
Hardneck Garlic
Shallots: Farmer Ellen Polishuk
Moutoux Peaches: Purcellville, VA
Sweet Onions at Five Seeds Farm: Sparks Glencoe, Maryland
Carrots at Willowsford Farm: Loudon County, VA
Potatoes, melons, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, herbs, cukes from Willowsford Farm CSA

Does Healthy Eating = Healthy Environment?

Whenever I order the vegetarian option on a menu or say “no thanks” to a steak from the grill, I end up in a discussion about the evolution of farming methods, meat-eating, and the health of the average American diet.

The truth is, I occasionally eat meat. We are, after all, omnivores and have the capacity and desire to eat meat. What I cannot, in good conscious, eat is factory farmed meat. It is the opposite of what nature intended and – consumed the way it is today – is undeniably bad for the planet and bad for human health. 
A few years ago, the United Food and Agriculture Organization published findings that current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of “CO2-equivalent” greenhouse gases the world produces every year. On top of that, consider how much farmland is dedicated to growing that feed instead of bio-diverse crops. 

On the same token, I will not purchase an organic apple from New Zealand over a conventionally grown American apple just because one is organic and the other may not be. Pesticides and herbicides are under a lot more scrutiny and regulation than many of the items deemed ‘natural’ by a label and I like to believe, however idealistic and blindly optimistic, that buying American is almost always a good choice. 


So how about canned veggies? And a lot of the things that we pick up at the grocer because Dr. Oz tells us they are healthy choices? Does the saying ‘good for you, good for the environment’ really hold true? 
Brian Palmer, for Slate’s Green Lantern, answers this question in this week’s Q&A

Too often, environmentalists slip half-knowingly between human health and environmental health. Ask a stranger in the grocery store why he buys organic, and he’ll almost certainly conflate the two issues. We’re all one, after all… Unfortunately, there’s no natural law saying that planet health and human health are unitary. Consider the potato. According to a 20-year study involving more than 120,000 people, potatoes correlate more closely with obesity than any other food (including soda). And yet, potatoes aren’t exactly giving Mother Earth diabetes, so to speak.”

Read Palmer’s articulate response to the question: is eating healthy better for the environment too? 
HERE. He examines transportation, farming methods, storage methods and compares fresh vs frozen foods. It turns out that there are many circumstances in which limp, salty canned food – which may not be better for your taste-buds or fit the idea of ‘fresh’ – is better for the environment.