"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Organic Disaster (Late Season Trades)

My longest running trade partner, Veggie/Oil Man ( see This Is What You Call Having Your Work Cut Out For You), had a rough year. His farm is certified organic, and so he uses natural fertilizers like steer manure. Early this summer, he - along with a dozen other organic farm in Whatcom County - bought steer manure tainted with some kind of broad-leaf herbicide. The herbicide came from the hay fed to the cows, and the cows apparently passed it right through unchanged, because when he applied this fertilizers to his crops, all the broadleaf crops died.

This was a disaster, of course - not only did he lose the majority of his yearly production, but this stuff may be quite persistent in the soil and affect his crops for years to come. There's also the question of what will happen to his organic certification. Some people have wondered why it is that manure from non-organic cattle can be used on organic farms. Personally I think there's only so far back up the chain you can go - you have to draw the line somewhere. If all the manure had to come from only cows fed hay from certified organic land - well, there just wouldn't be enough.

There is some hope - he told me that late in the summer, they noticed that broadleaf weeds were coming back, so they tried a late season planting of quick growing greens like arugula. They had a greens crop by mid-september. Also, he had some fields that were not fertilized with the tainted poop.

One of those fields was his pumpkin patch. At the last farmer's market of the season last week, he was giving away pumpkins. Due to the cool, short summer, many of them didn't quite orange up the way they should. He can't sell greenish jack-o-lanterns to his regular outlets, and he has a few thousand not-quite-ripe pumpkins sitting in his fields. So I went and got some.

They are orange enough for me. Of course I brought some cheese with me - a half pound each of the Smokin' Goat and the Seedy Dill and Caraway. While I was there, I noticed that there were still many blossoms on the vines and asked if I could grab some. He said go ahead, so I filled up a little lunchbag. These are just as good as any other kind of squash blossom. There are a lot of things to do with squash blossoms, but my husband like them simply tucked into quesadillas.

A sharp eye is important when looking for trades. I saw that he had a grapevine along one side of a shed and asked if I could take some leaves, which still looked nice. "Heck," he said, "take some grapes." I said I'd have to bring him back some more cheese and he said that would be fine. So the next day I went back and picked a few pounds of lovely delicious concord grapes. I'll put them in the kids' lunches.

I still have a big cheese surplus. I made tons of cheese (okay, tens of pounds of cheese) in advance of the September Swap Meet, which then was a dismal flop. I know there are still trades to be had out there - apples, for example - but I can't advertise the cheese as a trade item. Cheese must be a word-of-mouth item, traded to friends only.

So hey - if you are one of my friends... or a friend of a friend.... and you have an apple tree or maybe some late season greens like kale or collards... parsnips... you know who to call!


Grandpa said...

Hmmm...NOT good that herbicide. Be careful if you have lakes or other water catchment areas on or nearby the farm as well, as herbicides can leach and find their way there