Archive for January, 2012

2 Ideas enter, One Idea Leaves…..or maybe a compromise…. See Mad Max if ya don’t get it….

Should I eat organic fruits and vegetables or what? What’s the deal? I see the USDA Organic label and I feel safe but if I purchase it, I feel like an idiot for paying 4x’s as much for the same product. Does it really matter? Is it so much better to invest so much more in a product? Are regular grown veggies that much more beneficial to my health? Let’s take a look at what the big dogs have found so far:

The Mayo Clinic is uncertain, that helps right? In their article “Nutrition and Healthy Eating” they say:

The answer isn’t yet clear. A recent study examined the past 50 years’ worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. The researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are comparable in their nutrient content. Research in this area is ongoing.

The USDA FDA says:

No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.

How’s that make you feel? 50 years and no actual data? Are you kidding me? I could lobby congress for meal at a D.C. pub and a night at a sleazy strip club to have that turned in a week. What do these guys do? I mean really…. I’ll give you the big fancy government definition of this stuff, then I’ll break it down 7th grade style, not cause I think you don’t get it but because they fill their information with so much pork, it’d take you way too long to read.

Organic: The US Department of Environmental Protection has a long winded explanation here.  Does it differ from our buddies at the USDA’s standards? Sort of… Why? Because big government got involved. It was supposed to be a three year writing program but once Frito Lays got involved, it took ten years! And what did we get out of it? A watered down version of what it should be thanks to big business. If you get bored one Sunday, Google Frito Lays and Organic and try and see what fat cat CEO’s did to your Organic standard.

Organic (in simplest terms) is growing plants with no synthetic fertilizers (just compost, green manure and animal manure) and not using synthetics to keep away pests.

Why isn’t every farm organic? Maybe it’s because the government likes to charge a butt-load to certify a farm “organic” cause the GOV needs to make money right?

From TLC:

In a study of certification costs across eleven certification agencies, initial costs averaged $579, $1,414, $3,623, and $33,276 for farms with incomes of $30,000, $200,000, $800,000, and $10,000,000, respectively. For small farms, costs ranged from $90 to $1,290. For medium farms, certification cost anywhere from $155 to $3,300. Large farms paid about $200 to $12,300. And super-farms paid $575 to $150,300 for organic certification.

Why would a small farm (who barely makes enough money to survive) spend a ton of money to have the government give them USDA Certification? Maybe cause of the money……

Prior to 1990 Organic Foods didn’t exist! (Even though organic principles started as far back as the 1940’s) U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2010 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 11.8 percent over 2009 sales (Organic Trade Association)

Organics now represent about 2% of the U.S. retail dollars spent on produce. This may seem small, but it represents a phenomenal growth rate in the last 10 years; it is estimated that this percentage with climb to 10% within the next 10 years. It remains to be seen, however, whether organic food will ever become the norm. (Organicecology)

The American demand for year-round organic fruits and vegetables has incited a farming boom in the arid deserts of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. I’m talking about growing “organic” tomatoes in the desert…. Yes, the desert….Trucking in water then trucking the fruit 3,000 miles away so Whole Foods can put an Organic label on it and some soccer Mom from the suburbs can buy It and think she’s saving the world. But in effect, it’s against everything that organic principles are about. Organic, maybe… sustainable Absolutely No way. Here’s the article from the NY Times.

So, what do we do? Do we but Organic or not? I guess that’s up to you. There’s a lot of links on this blog so take a look around and decide for yourself. There’s also a ton more information out there, this post barely scratches the surface of this debate. Please take a look around and post some of what you found on the comments below.

Here is this rant in a nutshell…..

  • Buy veggies in season – don’t buy Asparagus in February in the Midwest, it’s most likely from Peru or Chili. Buy what grows when it grows…
  • Just because a farm doesn’t pay the USDA $ to be certified “Organic” but obeys Organic principles, buy their food!
  • Eat Vegetables raised from Heirloom Seeds
  • Buy Local, all the time – make friends with a farmer today
  • Organic (in my opinion) has got to be better since it’s not loaded up with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. I grow organically, I do so because; I love to be able to walk in my garden and pull out a veggie and eat it on the spot with no washing.
  • There’s no data that states that Certified Organic Food is any better for you then conventional growing methods. So, don’t dump a ton of money into “Organic” labeled food.

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I would like to thank Formecology’s owner John Gishnock for providing me with this valuable information on Composting and I’d like to give them a plug!

Formecology is born from the idea of combining art and nature – bringing natural elements together with cultural art forms to create landscapes that are appropriate both to the built and natural environment. Formecology is a full service design, build and care firm focusing on environmentally beneficial & regionally inspired landscapes for residential & commercial settings located in Evansville, WI. Please visit their site at: www.formecology.com

What is Compost?
Composting is the biological decomposition of organic material into a humus-like substance called compost. The process occurs naturally, but can be accelerated and improved by controlling environmental factors.

Why Compost?
•Compost is good for plant health
•Preserving nutrients from plant or grass clippings, food scraps and leaves onsite is much better than land filling or allowing them to wash into lakes
•Enhancing texture & water holding ability and adds beneficial microorganisms
•Add slow release nutrients
•Composting can destroy weed seeds & pathogens
•Can be used for erosion control/stabilization too

Each year half of the root system dies and is composted in the soil – Nature working itself!

Where should I put a compost site?

•Have a landscape plan !
•Keep it in your garden (you’re more likely to use it if it’s close by)
•Site to avoid views/smells
•Consider screening from neighbor’s
•Proximity to a water source (rain barrel perhaps)

•Proximity to application area (gardens/lawn)
•Keep close to kitchen for kitchen scraps (or store in smaller container to bring out periodically)
•Have some storage space available for extra materials (leaves, straw, etc)

Choose a level area with :
•Access to rainfall
•Good drainage & airflow
•Indirect sunlight (full sun can dry the pile and some sun helps dry a wet pile)
•Shelter from drying winds

What size should a compost pile be?
•The perfect size for a compost pile is one that is at least 3′ x 3′ x 3′. It’s not only a manageable size to turn, but it’s ideal for retaining heat while still allowing air flow.
•Plan for 10 square feet or more

•Smaller compost piles will still decompose material, but they may not heat up as well, and decomposition is likely to take longer

To create good compost you need:

•Ingredients (carbon source, nitrogen source, oxygen, water)
•Microorganisms – bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, rotifers, protozoa
•Macro-organisms (worms, insects, etc) can help aerate, break down materials, etc.. (These both generally come on there own)
•Heat (generated by decomposition)
•A thermometer (20” compost or kitchen thermometer )
•Pitch fork or shovel

Components include proper ratio of:

•Nitrogen-rich items – Green/multi-colored, wet Lawn clippings, veggie scraps, etc
•Carbon-rich Items
• Brown in color, dry Leaves, straw, etc
•Soil and fertilizer/ inoculants (if desired)

Carbon & Nitrogen Ratio

•Ideal ratio is about 25 -30 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen.
•If too much carbon, decomposition will be very slow.
•If too much nitrogen it will smell.

Do not include:

•Fats/oils. (meat, dairy, grease etc)
•Potential pathogens (pet droppings)
•Potential toxins / pesticide residue
•Ashes or other strongly acidic/ basic materials
• Large materials (branches, chunks of sod, etc)
• Plants that have been treated with pesticides and/or herbicides (weeds and lawn clippings) should be avoided.
Layers like lasagna
The Heat is On or The H is O

•Proper heat (135-160 degrees) is important to speed the process and kill weed seeds/ pathogens
•If temperatures get too high the beneficial microorganisms are killed.
•Measure temperature at center of pile using a thermometer (20“ composting thermometer or just a turkey thermometer)
•When the temperature reaches 155°F, turn pile to mix & aerate

•Turn again in a day or two when pile reaches 155°F again
•Plan on turning the pile every day or two when it reaches 155° to keep temperatures in appropriate range
•After the first week to 10 days temperatures will moderate & pile should be turned less than 1x per week.
•After 15-20 weeks the compost will be done.
•The center of the pile will be slightly warm and original ingredients will be indistinguishable.

Compost Tips:

•Shredding materials provides more surface area and encourages faster decomposition.
•Mixing/Aerating the pile with a pitchfork or using a tumbling system ensures adequate oxygen.

•Adequate moisture is important- you should be able to squeeze a small amt. of moisture out but it shouldn’t be wet.
•Let the microorganisms & macrorganisms do the work
•Worms love coffee grounds!
•Compost piles should remain damp but not too wet. As you build your compost pile, make sure that each layer is moist as it is added. The surface should also remain damp (think of a wrung out sponge), especially during the summer months.
•Soak finished compost in water to “brew” compost “tea,” a nutrient-rich liquid that can be used for foliar feeding or for watering plants in your garden, backyard, or houseplants.
•For faster results, use a compost turner every two weeks to aerate your pile.

Thanks again:

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