Friday, June 27, 2008

Homegrown Tomatoes, No S***.

(*** salmonella )
Because of the food scare, tomatoes have sold real well this spring. It was a good year to start the high tunnel. I take the following steps to ensure safe food. First I grow high quality stuff. Second, I wash my hands before I pick it. I visually inspect containers to make sure they are clean. If they are not clean, I wash them. The irrigation and wash water come from the same well I drink out of. The only way I have used animal manure around my tomatoes is to compost it a year before it is used. I would prefer to apply it one year and grow a covercrop. Maybe I can get that done when I retire.
The reason we are having a salomonella scare is probably either human manure use in Mexico or poultry dust from a large confinement operation in some washwater at a huge packing house. Another potential food problem is human waste in the field when field hands are pushed so hard they fell like they can't afford to walk to the bathroom, or they don't feel comfortable going to the bathroom. Well, I can easily walk back to my bathroom and there are currently no chickens on my farm.
The only thing I know that would make my operation safer is to include chlorox in the wash water. I have used it. It takes roughly a cup per 50 gallons of water. The trouble is getting rid of the chlorinated waste water. Plus I can no longer tell people the tomatoes are pesticide free.

Gardening Failure

First total failure of this gardening season is the Gold Nugget tomato. Highly recommended but I don’t like it. It all got ripe at once and didn’t have very much taste. I am not even picking it for market. It has a beautiful color. I remember Ivory or Snow White as being a better option. Don’t really get much out of the different colored cherry tomatoes but they help sell the red cherry tomatoes. I have some partial failures. Peppers are not doing worth anything. They must need more water than I am willing to pump on them. In places where I can’t water them regularly, they really look bad. Tomatillos are doing okay. I have eaten several of them. I cooked them the same way I do fried green tomatoes. I haven’t used them in any other recipes. So far I have sold all them to gringos. So I haven’t directly got my tax dollars back. I think this happened because I sold out of everything by 10 am last Saturday and the WIC people tend to not get moving by that time. May be one of the reasons my tax dollars are going to them and not vice versa.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Carbon Footprint

Many of the vegetables I sell at the farmers market have a fairly low carbon footprint for the following reasons. Any early transplants are produced in a greenhouse completely heated by solar heat. (See article on solar greenhouse below). Some items are direct seeded. I am reusing pots that I originally bought in 1975. The raised beds require very limited tillage. In fact, what tillage is done is done by hand or a trowel. No gas powered equipment is used. The other handtools I use are a shovel or pitchfork to dig compost, a bucket to haul compost, and a tire tool on certain weeds. The majority of my fertility comes from site produced compost. I seldom use insecticides and never use fungicides or herbicides on this area. Post harvest is another place the carbon footprint is fairly low. I carry them out by hand, wash them and load them in the pickup. Since I sell at the market 3 days a week, there is very little energy intensive storage. And most of the packaging is washed and reused. The plastic landscape fabric had a high carbon cost initially but some of it has been down for 18 years which should put me far ahead of anybody using plastic mulch on an annual system. Another high carbon cost is traveling the 18 miles to the local farmers market. Even though my truck gets 28 miles to the gallon, the carbon cost per pound of produce is still fairly high.

Raised beds

I see and hear about people going to a lot of trouble or expense to make raised beds. Browse the internet and you can find suggestions from plastic to wood to concrete block. You can alsso find instructions on splitting tires. Here is a better option. These are my raised beds. The center two are about 15 years old in this picture. 2008 will be their 18th season. The closest ones were developed in 1994 while the far side was put down around 2002. I formed the first ones with a shovel but the latter ones were formed with a bottom plow. Drip irrigation is laid down the center. Then the bed is covered by a ground cloth. It takes a high quality woven ground cover to prevent weeds. I use a propane torch to burn a small hole about the size of my hand in the bed. Turn the irrigation on so you know where it is at and don't drip melted ground cover on it. I used 8 mil T tape which is designed for annual use although I got more than 10 years use out of the oldest ones. Each year I put compost through the holes and then seed or transplant into the holes. The only tools I use are a shovel to load compost, a bucket to transport compost and tire tool to dig out a few of the tougher weeds. I generally use gloves when putting in the compost.

Cherry Harvest

The loose cherries are my second picking of Stella sweet cherry. This is about 7 lbs. My first picking was 20 lbs. I didn't weigh myself but I'm sure I gained weight as I picked. We canned some, ate a bunch fresh, sold some. I sold the pint clam shells for $3 each which was close to $4 a lb. Might should have asked for more, but local food stores were advertising 2 lbs for $3 at the time. The quality of some of these were better than anything I have ever bought in the store. We had frost damage this year although I am not sure how much that hurt my harvest. I suspect the frost thinned out the cherries and improved the quality.