Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunflowers we have known

When sunflowers bloom, they call for the camera. Each conveys a different personality...
Thistle-like beginnings:

A winking opening:
A bright hybrid:

An odd twin headed flower, the new one getting ready to bloom as soon as the first one leaves off.
A row of flowers bowing to the rain and praying for the sun:

10 foot tall planting grown in this Spring's pig pen:
From beneath:
From the top:

A big momma flower which laid on the ground allowing a dozen or so children to bloom:

Anyway, tour the flowers for yourself. How many more weeks of blooming????


Pac Choi

This week we benefit from a little help from our neighbors and friends at Snell Family Farm. As some of you know, of the THREE attempts to germinate cucumbers, only a 3rd of one of those plantings actually got going (remember: wettest summer ever...) So, there is a cucumber patch we will borrow from this week so that we won't miss out entirely on our cukes! The fine print would read "un-certified organic", which means that the Snells are not certified organic growers, but on the ground they sub-lease from Broadturn Farm, they do not use any substances not allowed in organic production. Yes, there is more to organic farming than not using broad-spectrum, persistent pesticides, and petroleum-based fertilizers. There is crop rotation, manure application waiting periods, "integrated pest management", record-keeping, and more... but back to the cucumbers.
The Snells (who are very responsible farmers) have some very compelling reasons to not be certified organic. The best reason is the integrity they have earned through their direct marketing relationships, for which no label is required. But during this especially difficult season there are a couple of very interesting arguments against organic certification.
The different materials unavailable to organic growers can moderate a disaster season like this one. Many organic farmers will be deep in debt by the end of the season, and some may not financially be able to continue farming. Theoretically the higher price of organic covers the higher costs (like labor, but also the more expensive organic input materials). But that is just theoretical and in a good season, everyone has short term memory, and prices go down. Organic farming can be extreme in its ups and downs, and that is hardly ever a good thing. Moderation is more sustainable.
Another issue is the quantity of materials many organic farmers are loading onto crops to keep the late blight from spreading. We use copper as a fungicide, which is a "natural" material, but certainly not advisable if sprayed every week for a whole summer; same thing with sulfur which is used on fruit trees. This approach to the season is like fighting a match with one hand tied behind your back. Less effective materials are being used in an attempt to deliver the same result as gotten with conventional techniques. That means more material, more frequent tractor circuits spraying the material, and more residues. Again, moderation might be more sustainable.
You can see that John Snell and I have had a few interesting discussions in the field, me with my back-pack sprayer, and him on his dusty sprayer tractor.
"It isn't exactly a peaches and cream year, that's for sure!"- John Snell

1 comment:

  1. I hope the copper has helped you this summer...we lost most of our tomatoes (even with copper) and are relying on our pineapple ground cherries (husk cherry) and sunberries to fill in the gap at market. Its been a tough year to start our own farm but at least we know all the challenges one can face in the worst of conditions.

    Old Ocean House Farms