Tag Archives: omri

Growing Organic – and Vegan – Tomatoes


I’ve been out of town during a lot of April, so I didn’t get my garden in as early as I normally would (usually the week after Easter). But, given the crazy weather – from frost to tornadoes and torrential rains – maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Annette, my ex wife who lives in North Carolina, planted early and got hit by the frost.

Here’s a little garden update.

I'm not unhappy about the wild white clover growing in my backyard. In fact, I'm happy for the bees! It's like a little nature preserve. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

I’m not unhappy about the wild white clover growing in my backyard. In fact, I’m happy for the bees! It’s like a little nature preserve. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

As you can see, the wild white clover is running amok in the back yard; but I’m not concerned about it. In fact, I’ve been happy for the bees! (Next, I’ll add supers to the hives on the right.) Sadly, I’ve had to mow the clover in the front yard, so the house will look nice from the street (don’t want anybody to complain!). But the backyard looks like a little nature preserve, somewhat. 🙂

Earlier, I had planted red clover in the plot. You can see how it has started to take root. If you were standing there, you would also see bare spots where pooling from heavy rains pushed some of the seeds together. I came back over it today, seeding the bare spots. I didn’t use the seeder; but sowed by hand.

This is not meant to be a pretty garden. The major goal of this garden is to put nitrogen in the soil so I can plant greens in fall; adding tomato plants is a lagniappe.

Also, notice the mulch paper. I prefer paper over plastic, as plastic is not good for the environment and has to be removed and thrown away. In the past, when I was farming and had big fields, I used WeedGuardPlus, which can be bought in long rolls for open fields. It’s 100 percent biodegradable. I recommend it because I’ve used it and I know it works; I’m not paid anything to endorse it. (Read more: https://www.weedguardplus.com)

This time, because I’m only using a few feet in a small garden, I’m using another paper mulch: Planters Planter. It does the same thing; it’s available from http://www.groworganic.com

With either product, at the end of the season, just till it under and it will biodegrade. I also on this garden put bricks to hold it down, just because I had a lot of them. Normally, you would cover the edges with soil. I put this down a few weeks ago when I put down compost and planted the clover. When it was put down, it was darker; but the sun has lightened it.

Today, we’ll focus on growing tomatoes.

To plant, dip you started tomato plant into a root starter or planting mix. You can buy starters or mix your own, including vegan recipes. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

To plant, dip you started tomato plant into a root starter or planting mix. You can buy starters or mix your own, including vegan recipes. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

The process is simple. Tear a hole in the mulch; dig a trench about 4 inches deep and eight inches long; dip your plant in starter or planting mix; and cover it up about two-thirds of its length. Viola! Planted. Now for the details.

First, you need to create a planting mix. I’ve written about this before, so I’ll quote:

“The general rule is that if a product or ingredient is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), then it’s OK for certified organic use. Root Tone product, for example, is not listed on the OMRI site, nor is its active ingredient: idole-3 butyric acid, or indolebutyric acid; neither is the other most popular ingredient on the market: napthalacetic acid. Both are synthetics.
However, there are a number of organic root stimulators that are approved; including products such as Hygrozyme and Biorhizotonic. For more, see:
http://www.omri.org/simple-opl-search/results/root — or look up the name of the product. OMRI does not list synthetic products.

“Farmers themselves often have their own “secret” natural concoctions that may include fish oil, blood meal or other natural fertilizers. (We use a mixture of water, kelp meal and fish emulsion.) Just use your finger or a trowel to poke a hole in the soil, dip the roots of each start in the mixture and plop it in, gently patting the soil around it.”

This time, I didn’t have much time, so I used Earth Juice, which is essentially the same mix I usually use, but premixed and store-bought. Note: If you’re vegan, and object to using any animal products in your garden, you can use Vegan Mix fertilizer, see: http://www.groworganic.com/vegan-mix-3-2-2-6-lb-box.html

It’s possible to have an entirely vegan, organic garden: the only animal life is the pollination by the bees, aeration of the soil by earth worms, and whatever birds come to visit. (Notice in the photos, I also have a plastic owl; that’s to keep birds from pecking my tomatoes!)

If you have lots of compost from leftovers from your vegan meals, you’re simply transferring fertility from wherever those plants were grown to your backyard. Those plants will provide the trace elements your garden will need. If you are having problems with insects or blights, there are organic (and if you look hard enough, frequently vegan) solutions on the NCAT/ATTRA database:  https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/biorationals/

It’s a free, quick way to diagnose problems in the organic garden.

Lay the plant down in the trench so only to top sticks out and cover it up. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Lay the plant down in the trench so only to top sticks out and cover it up. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Plant your started tomato plant using a small trench. We have heavy soils, so going down, rather than across, would drown the roots. You can plant your plant 5 or 6 inches deep if it’s well drained; otherwise, dig a small trench about four inches deep and 8 inches long, or 2/3rds of the plant’s length and lay it in the trench.

Notice out little friend. Because we had prepped the soil earlier with lots of compost, the garden was full of earthworms. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Notice out little friend. Because we had prepped the soil earlier with lots of compost, the garden was full of earthworms. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Because we had prepped the soil earlier with lots of compost, the garden was full of earthworms. You couldn’t dig a trowel full without revealing one. This wouldn’t happen if we were using harsh synthetic chemicals or manufactured fertilizers.

Use Earth friendly potting mixes for your tomato starts - no synthetic ingredients! (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Use Earth friendly potting mixes for your tomato starts – no synthetic ingredients! (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

If you're in a hurry and don't have time to mix starters for your plants, Earth Juice works great. Later on, use with in a sprayer for side dressing and foliar feeding. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to mix starters for your plants, Earth Juice works great. Later on, use with a sprayer for side dressing and foliar feeding. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Water the plants thoroughly; don’t be alarmed if they are rather wilty to begin with; they’ll pop back up. Be prepared to replace a plant or two; sometimes they can’t withstand the shock of transplant, or an animal or bugs might get them. Keep them watered, but not muddy. The soil needs to drain, but don’t let them dry out either. And you should do fine.

This is a simple garden designed for little maintenance that also puts nitrogen in the soil. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

This is a simple garden designed for little maintenance that also puts nitrogen in the soil. (Photo: Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Most of all, relax! Enjoy! This is your little Garden of Eden. What a wonderful way to start the day!

Then, you enjoy your hammock ….

Enjoy your garden and leisure! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Enjoy your garden and leisure! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

And your kitty cat!


Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Make organic garden an ‘open space, sacred space’

April 6, 2012

Make organic garden an ‘open space, sacred space’

“Every neighborhood needs a Walden Pond in their backyard, a place where people can be in nature and reconnect to themselves, to the land, and to each other.”

So say Tom and Kitty Stoner, founders of the TKF Foundation, and its Open Spaces, Sacred Places program that supports having natural oases in cities, neighborhoods and businesses.
Today, Good Friday, is traditional planting time in central Mississippi. Given the oddly warm and even hot weather, it seems late to plant, but it’s not. The best time is just starting.
Planning your garden is part of the fun, as well. You, too, can make your organic garden a welcoming place for others, or for rejuvenating yourself. That’s what gardens are all about, in my view anyway. They feed the body and the soul.
Over next to our spring/fall garden plot, I have a reclining chair. During warm weather – even winter, if the sun is out – my beautiful wife Annette can frequently find me there, looking out over the rows and spirals of plants in the garden.
In sunny weather, I watch the bees buzz from flower to flower while laden with pollen like they’re wearing waders. I watch the butterflies in their arrays of yellows, oranges and blues, flit here and there. And the birds drop from the sky to alight, eying bugs in the soft soil. We are serenaded by their birdsong.
Sometimes, I take a book to read. Sometimes, I just hold the book in my lap, transfixed by nature’s unfolding tableau.
According to the Stoners’ website, http://www.opensacred.org, an Open Space, Sacred Space has four elements: portal, path, destination and surround. Each is self-explanatory, with the Stoners concluding: “The Sense of Surround ensures that the visitor is safe within the sacred space, until his or her return to everyday life, retracing steps on the path and moving back out through the portal.”
The wonder is that these oases can be built just about anywhere, or everywhere. Perhaps, wherever the heart yearns for peace and a place that helps reveal the joy that resides within.

Reader response: What liquid organic fertilizer do you recommend? How can it be applied?
I don’t recommend any brand, but to get transplants and seeds started we usually mix kelp and fish emulsion or blood meal.
You can take your seedlings and dip them in the mix and plant them, to give them a boost. Or dribble it around the roots for a topical dressing. Later, you can spray the kelp as foliar feeding.
Check local garden stores’ organic sections. If they’re OMRI approved (www.omri. org), they should be fine.
If you are vegan and don’t approve of using animal products, you can use mineral mixes with the same elements. Just read the labels or go online.
Bottles of fertilizer are pricey, but they also go a long way; you don’t have to apply very often.

Reader response: I heard someone say “plants can’t tell the difference between synthetic and organic fertilizer.” Is this true?
Well, if you believe what the chemical companies tell you, that’s true. But if you call yourself an organic grower, no way!
First: Synthetic fertilizers are banned in the National Organic Program. You cannot be certified organic and use them.
Second, using synthetic fertilizers also is an affront to the basic philosophy of organics. Organic growing is from the soil up, not the chemical applicator down.
Ammonia- based synthetic fertilizers kill microorganisms in the soil, kill earthworms that keep it aerated and fertilized by their natural processes,they burn plant roots and destroy humus.
They weaken plants’ resistance to disease; which works out great for chemical manufacturers because they then can also sell chemical insecticides, fungicides and other poisons.
That’s in the microcosm: your own backyard. In the macrocosm, they poison drinking water, kill lakes and cause waterways to choke with weeds; they even are responsible for the giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where there is no oxygen.
You can’t throw harsh chemicals on the soil and not expect consequences – in our food, yards or planet.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Beneficial insects, bug database helpful

July 8, 2011
Beneficial insects, bug database can help organic gardens
In midsummer, the number of blights, pests and other issues that can plague the organic garden can seem overwhelming.
There are two resources we’ve used to address some of them; first is adding beneficial insects to control pest outbreaks; second is a computer database that can instantaneously diagnose the various symptoms and offer certified organic solutions.
Ladybugs are the most popular beneficial insect for the garden. We bought some to control an aphid outbreak the year before last and they are still prolific; we have also bought praying mantids.
According to Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, which sells ladybugs, they are capable of consuming up to 50 to 60 aphids per day and one ladybug can consume many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.
They also eat a variety of other insects and larvae including scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and various types of soft-bodied insects.
Typically, ladybugs are sold in large numbers; 70,000 ladybugs per gallon, or 18,000 per quart. Use one gallon for up to three acres. In orchards, use one gallon per acre. Grain crops may require as little as one gallon for every 10 acres.
For melons and cucumbers, use one gallon for every 15 acres.
Next year, you might consider the praying mantid. It eats aphids, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, moths, caterpillars, wasps, generally, any insect it can catch. The praying mantid’s egg sac can contain up to 40,000 eggs. They usually hatch in spring.
You can buy live ladybugs and praying mantid egg sacs online (even Costco sells the latter). We bought ours from Peaceful Valley, Box 2209, Grass Valley CA 95945, phone: 1-888-784-1722, or: www.groworganic.com. And, yes, praying mantids will eat ladybugs. So, you might want to stagger them out a bit.
If you are finding strange plant symptoms, here’s a handy online resource for finding safe, organically OMRI approved non-toxic pesticide solutions at the Organic Pesticides /predators Database: http://bit.ly/g6Eqgu.
The service is provided by National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Box 3838, Butte MT 59702; phone: 1-800-346-9140.
Treat your kitties: Try growing catnip in your garden, or in a pot. It’s easy to grow (it’s a member of the mint family) and comes back year after year. Just take a few leaves, chop them or crumble them up, and put them on the floor or in a sock or kitty’s favorite place (not in food).
Catnip also makes a nice tea for humans. It contains nepetalactone, a natural sedative, and is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and muscle-relaxing. (Not recommended for expectant or nursing mothers.)
Fresh produce: Just a reminder for those looking for fresh fruit and veggies: The Mississippi Farmers Market, located at 929 High St. adjacent to the fairgrounds, is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information, call (601) 354-6573, email FarmersMarket@mdac.state.ms.us or visitwww.msfarmersmarket.com.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Organic practices lessen E. coli threat


June 9, 2011

Organic practices lessen threat of disease

The news this week that a deadly outbreak of E. coli bacteria in Germany was from an organic farm raised flags with me, as much for its improbability as for its deadly nature.

Since those first reports, the German government has backed off its claim that an organic farm produced the outbreak.

While it’s possible for any farm – including an organic farm – to have produce infected by the bacterium, and consumers should always wash produce from the grocery, regardless of source, it’s less likely for organic produce for a variety of reasons.

First, the incidence of virulent strains of E. coli is a direct result of conventional (not organic!) farming of beef, where animals are “finished” on corn.

Ruminants are not naturally equipped to digest corn and it leads to bacteria (E. coli among them) being excreted from the gut. When coupled with the common practice of conventional agriculture (not organic!) to feed antibiotics to farm animals, virulent strains resistant to treatment are formed.

These bacterium are found in the manure of conventionally raised farm animals (not certified organic!) and that manure is often used to fertilize crops.

Here is where the possibility of E. coli can enter the organic food train, depending on the producer:

In certified organic vegetable crop production, strict manure handling is required.

Specifically: The U.S. regulations for organic production require that raw animal manure must be composted unless it is applied to land used for a crop not intended for human consumption; or is incorporated into the soil not less than 120 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion has direct contact with soil; or is incorporated into the soil not less than 90 days prior to the harvest of a product whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles. See 7 CFR 205.203 (c)(1) and (2).

Residual hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, disease organisms and other undesirable substances can be eliminated through high-temperature aerobic composting.

So, presumably, E. coli would be eradicated in certified organic crops – if manure is properly composted or incorporated.

Again, I’m not saying it cannot occur, but, for producers of organic crops, the likelihood of transmitting E. coli is much smaller.And, for those (such as in our case, for example) where only composted horse manure or composted grass-fed or organic cow manure is used, not “raw” manure, or from industrial agriculture confined and corn-finished herds, the likelihood drops to virtually zero.

Me? I say: Eat organic, eat local! Know your farmer. Compose your own compost and manures from known – or OMRI verified – sources.

For the home organic gardner: Anyone who is actually growing his or her own food and uses manure would do well to read the book: Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure To Save Mankind by Gene Logsdon (Chelsea Green, 2010, $17.50).

Online: For more on manures, see Organic Trade Association Q&A: http://bit.ly/eW35Gb.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Better food, a better planet

May 26, 2011

Growing organic makes for better food, a better planet

I had a nice email exchange with a reader about organic gardening, in which he essentially said he “sort of” did it.

As I wrote to the reader, back in the 1980s and ’90s, I was doing as he is now, planting hybrids (Better Boy tomatoes were my faves) and lightly using chemicals. I thought that if I just limited the amount of synthetics, that would be “organic” enough, and I reasoned, what was wrong with hybrids, anyway?

It wasn’t until a few years ago, however, that I found that even a “smattering” of chemicals destroyed the delicate balance of organisms that make up a truly organic garden. By using chemicals to change one issue, such as blight, or bugs, or using harsh, synthetic fertilizer, necessitated even stronger artificial methods in a self-perpetuating cycle. And, all the while, I was destroying the delicate microbial life that enriched the vegetables, ensuring nutrients were going from the ground into my body.

I had no idea that when I occasionally threw a handful of anhydrous ammonia into the compost or soil, I was killing the unseen universe that supported abundant, nutritious, healthy produce.

Further, I had no idea that by relying on hybrids that I was voting with my dollars to decrease planet’s biodiversity.

Every year, between consumers not planting rare seeds and giant Ag Biz conglomerates buying up seed stocks and either converting them to genetically engineered products or discontinuing those lines, we’re reducing food plant diversity.

What happens when we no longer have access to diverse seeds? We set up our food seed supply to be owned by a handful of private multinational corporations and open the way for potential famine when a pathogen inevitably mutates to attack those few lines of patented seeds. And, by the way, do you think that entire nations will calmly starve to death when crops fail and there are few commercial seeds available except those genetically vulnerable to disease?

So, I changed my thinking and behavior to true organic. This is the path I believe is something of a “back to the future” approach, away from petrochemicals and artificial fertility and working toward restoring the earth and bringing balance for healthy crops – and people!

Grow organic. Cultivate heirlooms and rare seeds. Enjoy the rich bounty of the earth. And know you are doing your part for better food, a better planet, for future generations.

Reader response: Ratio for applying compost?

A little bit of compost goes a long way. Apply 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch on your garden. That translates to 1-4 cubic feet of compost for 100 square feet. Incorporate that into the the top 2-4 inches of soil by digging or raking or tilling. Apply more thickly to poorer soils, more lightly to richer soils.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to lay it on more thickly if you have it. Just work it in the soil. At ShooFly Farm, we have several 50-gallon “spin” composters that we use, and they digest down to about 1 1/2 to 2 cubic feet every 90 days. We just keep filling them in sequence, so we generally have compost routinely available. You can also use windrows; that is, pile up the material and turn it from time to time until it’s digested into dark, rich matter.

Author Michael Pollan makes fun of organic gardeners’ fixation with compost, but it’s for a reason: The plants you put into your body contain the nutrients that are in soil. If your soil does not contain the full array of minerals and trace elements, along with the proper beneficial bacteria that allow the plants’ roots’ efficient intake of them, then your food and your body will be lacking essential vitamins and minerals.

It’s called “full belly” syndrome. You can buy processed food, or vegetables grown in depleted soils, and fill your belly, but won’t receive all that you need for strong muscles, bones, hair and teeth. Nurture your compost. By saving such waste as food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, melon rinds and yard clippings, you are turning trash into gold. Your compost is like money in the bank – in the coin of health for you and your family!

Reader response: I have a big problem with fire ants taking over my raised beds. How can I control them organically? There is an OMRI-approved fire ant bait called Garden Safe; it’s sold at some Walmarts. You may have to order it online. Although it’s OMRI approved for certified organic gardening, we usually dump coffee grounds on the mounds if they are in the garden per se, then use the Garden Safe around the garden. The active ingredient is Spinosad, which is a bacterium. You can also pour boiling water on the mound.

Online. Plants looking bedraggled? Clip this out and save it: Common symptoms of soil deficiencies: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/nutrient-deficiency-problem-solver.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Reality and ‘myth’ of organic

May 20, 2011

Consumer must sort out reality from the ‘myth’ of organic

As hard as it is for me to say this, and as much of an advocate of “organic” as I may be, there’s a lot to be desired in the genre.

In fact, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture has commandeered the name “organic,” and now defines it, a lot of small, organic farmers are at a loss as to how to describe themselves.

For example, at our little corner in the earth, we don’t use pesticides or herbicides. Period. But there are a number of such chemicals that are allowed as USDA certified “organic.” (For a list, see: http://www.omri.org.)

The USDA also allows a lot of other practices that small farms tend to reject, as well (especially regarding confinement of animals, preferring instead to allow chickens free range and cows to have access to pasture).

I got to thinking about this after seeing an ad on Facebook for Cascadian Farms, which touted itself as “organic” since 1972.

It may have started out as a “pure” organic farm back then, but it’s now a division of cereal giant General Mills.

Yet, here are thousands of people on Facebook “liking” part of the Big Ag industrial food machine because they think it’s something it’s not – part of the “myth” of “organic.”

When people see the word “organic,” they probably think it’s from small, independent farmers, who care about what they eat and grow. And they may even envision old hippies or young idealists or at least “salt of the earth” types who enjoy farming for its earthy pleasures and honest values as much as making a buck.

But, increasingly, they would be wrong. It’s part of the “myth” of organic that Big Ag organic seeks to promote.

Most of the “organic” produce you see in the supermarket is not produced by small farms – unless you deem tens of thousands of acres as “small.”

It’s shipped from far away factory farms – even other countries. For example, Cascadian Farms buys its “organic” fruits and vegetables from China and Mexico, among other countries. U.S. Silk soy milk, for instance, is made from “organic” soybeans bought in China and Brazil.

Consumers looking for the safest and most nutritious foods buy organic. That remains true. And the “myth” of organic is not truly a myth, in there are local organic farmers across the nation who are growing pure, fresh, healthful food without chemicals. The reality, though, is that there are factory farms that dominate the market and most of the certified organic food in grocery stores is produced by these farms.

The reality is also that many of these large conglomerates are cooperative arrangements whereby small organic farmers sell to the big operations to distribute their food nationwide.

So, while the “myth” of organic is the idea that its driven by the small independent farmer, the reality covers the range from the folks (like my wife and I) making the myth a reality to the large corporate food giants that make mockery of the myth. Truth is within the myth, but diffused and often distorted.

It’s up to the individual consumer to make reality from the myth, and you, the reader, can choose the reality you prefer by your choices.

You can create a better reality than the myth of organic by using these buying criteria.

•Good for you: More fresh produce.

•Good for you and environment: Organic produce.

•Good for you and your community: Any local fresh produce.

•Best for you, your community and the environment: Local, fresh, organic produce.

And, finally, the best of all possible worlds in my view anyway: Growing your own fresh, organic produce and sharing it with others – either friends, family and community members – through gifts or creating and selling through community supported agriculture where they buy “shares” in the produce you grow for weekly delivery, or selling to the local store, farmers market or fruit stand.

The bottom line is that without the myth of the small organic farmer being the one supplying the produce at Walmart and Kroger, the giant “elites” (industrial agriculture with a designer label) couldn’t exist; without the giant elites spurring the demand for their products, the consumer wouldn’t even be aware there was such a thing as organic pesticide-free farming. And without both united against watering down strict organic practices (including rejecting genetically modified seeds and sneaking in toxic chemicals), small farmers wouldn’t have the market they do and a growing demand.

Certified organic is better than “conventional” chemical farming. But increasingly, what is deemed “organic” accommodates the factory farms which can vastly underprice the hand-grown methods of small farmers.

The big farms do, however, have pretty labels and lots of advertising that promotes the “myth.”

Eat local. Know your farmer. That’s the way to go. Or, better yet, grow your own!

For a list of supermarket “organic” brands and the corporations that own them, see: http://bit.ly/i6zF44.

In Mississippi:

•There are only about 25 USDA certified organic growers. Most that sell locally list themselves with Local Harvest: http://www.localharvest. org.

•Not all farmers who grow organically are USDA certified. A few Mississippi farmers are Certified Naturally Grown, see: http://www.naturallygrown.org.

•Locally, some organic farmers sell at the Jackson Farmer’s Market on High Street on Saturdays and at Rainbow Natural Foods on Old Canton Road. Check the Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce website for farmer’s markets statewide: http://www.mdac.state.ms.us.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Organic flowers, fruit

March 25, 2011

Flowers, fruit can be grown organically, not just veggies

This weather has me all messed up plantwise. Everything I know about weather is topsy-turvey with temperatures now averaging 14 degrees above normal.

Usually, here in central Mississippi, we have a few warm days in March that get everyone excited about planting gardens, then a hard frost comes, and some folks have to start all over again.

But this year, it’s been hot in March. Our spinach, collards and other cool weather fall-planted crops are going to seed, yet I just can’t get myself to risk planting so early (before Good Friday).

Annette’s been busy in the garden, planting cool weather plants such as onions, garlic, herbs, peas, arugula, kale, chard, red salad greens, Asian stir fry mix, carrots and snow peas, and in the greenhouse getting tomatoes, squash, peppers, melons and other warm weather plants started.

We’ll probably set them out in the next couple of weeks (going by weather rather than calendar and hoping for the best. Remember, we have had ice storms before at the end of March!).

We have Wall ‘o Waters for the tomatoes (plastic rings that you fill with water to hold heat at night) and Agribon covers for rows if there’s a chance of frost.

Right now, if you’re going to gamble on the weather, treat it like the stock market: Don’t risk more than you can afford to lose.

Tips and reminders:

•Use certified organic seeds;

•Use OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, approved garden or potting soil (Miracle Gro makes one called Organic Choice that’s sold locally, even at Walmart);

•Use ecologically sound containers, such as those from recycled paper (Peaceful Valley -www.groworganic.com – even sells a kit to make your own pots from old newspapers);

•Or, use reusable containers such as smart pots and grow bags (from recycled materials);

•Or, use pots that can be planted, such as “cow pots,” made from composted cow manure, or Coir (coconut fiber) that can be used instead of sphagnum peat moss, which is being depleted from the Earth (large-scale peat harvesting is not sustainable as it takes thousands of years to form the peat “bricks” that are harvested in just a week; look for companies with sustainable harvesting methods).

•Think: Sustainable!

Fruits, berries, roses … As stated previously, it was my honor earlier this year to be elected to the board of the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, but I’ve found that quite a few of my colleagues are unaware they can easily “grow organic,” just as gardeners can.

One prominent grower in Mississippi told me that he would love to be organic, but “you can’t do it without fungicides.”

I was so flabbergasted, I didn’t know what to say, and just stood there with my mouth open.

Obviously, there has not been enough information promulgated about organics in general or fungicides in particular.

Not only commercial fruit, berry and vegetable growers, but even folks who grow such temperamental flowers as roses can grow organically without damaging the environment, spreading or breathing toxic waste or poisoning the air, soil and water.

Now, Annette and I are what’s called “deep organic” (in Eliot Coleman’s terms) or purists, maybe: that is, we don’t use any chemicals, period. It takes a little bit more thought and effort (and occasional setbacks), to be sure.

But there are a number of weed, disease and pest control applications that are certified organic by OMRI that meet all National Organic Standards. They are easy to use, safe, widely available and affordable for hobbyists as well as commercial growers.

A sampling from just one catalog lists:

•Cease – a bacterium that eradicates powdery mildew, several leaf spot and soil diseases;

•OxiDate – a broad spectrum bactericide/fungicide that uses rapid oxidation to kill unwanted bacteria and fungi;

•Liquid Copper Fungicide – targeting diseases on grapes, vegetables, fruit, berries, roses, pine and cedar trees and more;

•Safer Brand Garden Fungicide – for fruit, vegetables, flowering plants and ornamentals;

•Plantshield – Fungicide protects roots, can be used for seeds, cuttings, transplants, and can be used as a drench or spot dressed directly for foliar-infecting fungi.

Mind you, these are just fungicides (addressing my friend’s concerns). You can find whole sections of natural, biodegradable, non-toxic products for a range of issues specifically for fruit trees, berries, vegetables, flowers and what have you.

These examples are from: Arbico, Box 8910, Tucson AZ, 85738-0910. Phone: 1-800-827-2847. (It even offers natural, plant-based, non-toxic bedbug killers).

So, it’s not as if the resources aren’t out there; they just aren’t being advertised or promoted by the agri-biz conglomerates.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Snow White Syndrome

Dec. 3, 2010

Avoid Snow White while eating organic rainbow!

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.”

– Wendell Berry

By now, those who have been following this column by tending to a 4×8-food fall “Jim’s plot” garden should be enjoying green, leafy vegetables – if they’ve been watered and covered with Agribon, or a light blanket or other covering during the recent frosts.

The open-air garden plots we planted at ShooFly Farm on Labor Day weekend are trending toward the end of their life cycles even with the loving treatment they’ve been afforded.

It’s time to shift over to cold frames (or high tunnels or green houses, if you have them).

For future reference, here’s a list of veggies that Annette and I have been enjoying and you might consider planting next fall: Mizuna; arugula; kale; Tokyo Bekana/pei tsai; pak choi; chard; purple top turnips; mustard greens; collard greens; radishes.

As your plants become more stressed by the weather, they likely are also developing bug holes in the leaves. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a natural outgrowth of “growing organic.”

Have your ever heard of Snow White Syndrome?

Most of us have it to some extent. It refers to the beautiful, perfect poison apple in the Snow White fairy tale. Factory farmed, conventionally grown produce is like the poison apple; it is perfect, but poisonous – or at least has added chemicals!

Most of us grew up with this kind of produce; our purchasing habits reflect that. We sometimes think that produce with bug holes or other natural “blemishes” is not as good for us and won’t buy it. The truth is that such imperfections do not in any way affect the quality, nutrition or wholesomeness of the food.

The large factory organic farms and many organic small farms actually use pesticides that are organically approved to help ensure a product that is Snow White perfect. They are afraid people won’t buy it if they don’t.

But organic “purists” (like us) don’t use pesticides, even the USDA certified organic (OMRI) ones: We know that a garden is a complex, interdependent habitat, which supports many life forms. If we were to kill one type of bug, for example, we would be upsetting the balance – and possibly also eliminating that bugs’ natural predators. Good soil and plant nutrients produce healthier plants that are more resistant to bugs and diseases.

For healthy food, feed the soil; don’t spray the crops with poison.

However cosmetically “imperfect,” enjoy your organically grown food, knowing that it’s totally healthful. Spread the word, and educated consumers will help to eliminate all pesticides from our environment.

Try eating the rainbow!

The color of the plant is not an ironclad indicator of healthfulness, either. While deep colored plants, like blueberries, have lots of anti-oxidants that help humans maintain health and fight diseases, it’s important to eat a range of foods.

We need not only those colors, but the lighter colored fruits and veggies as well. For example, most white or lighter veggies -such as cauliflower, Tokyo bekana, cabbage – contain nutrients such as beta-glucans, EGCG, SDG, and lignans that provide powerful immune-boosting activity. These nutrients also activate natural killer B and T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers. (For more on this, see: http://www.all-about-juicing.com/Vegetable-Juicing.html)

For better health, keep a kaleidoscope of colors on your plate.

For those switching over to a cold frame; make sure and keep it ventilated during the day. Even though the sun may appear weak during a cold, winter’s day, heat can quickly build in an enclosed space. You don’t want your plants to wilt!

Lately, our cold frames have been open all day and night unless the temperature dips below freezing; then, we shut the glass tops for the night, reopening them in the day. Maintaining heat in a cold frame is more art than science; you have to be vigilant.

Reader feedback:

“Crusty” honey, or honey that’s “gone to sugar” does not mean it’s not pure. Granules forming in the jars is normal for all honey over time. Additionally, some bee varieties produce honey more prone to it than others, along with other variables. Some bees (particularly German black bee or European bee) produce more syrupy honey, and less of it, for example, than say, Italian bees. If honey turns crusty, just set the jar in warm water, and the sugar will dissolve again. It won’t affect the quality.

Contact Jim Ewing on Twitter @OrganicWriter or @EdiblePrayers, or Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc