Thursday, March 23, 2017

USDA Certified Organic Statistics

We recently received and completed the survey for Certified Organic farms distributed by the US Department of Agriculture.
By "agriculture" standards, we're a pretty small producer but we are committed to the organic standards and the rigorous process for organic certification.
Here's information about the survey process.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will begin conducting the 2016 Certified Organic Survey to gather up-to-date data on certified organic crops and livestock in the United States. This special survey effort is critical to help determine the economic impact of certified organic agriculture production across the nation. NASS is mailing the survey to all known certified organic farms. The form asks farmers to provide information on acreage, production, and sales for a variety of certified organic crop and livestock commodities"
As part of our certification, we must use seeds that are USDA Certified Organic. I recently came across a new-to-me seed company, Reimer Seeds, that offered a nice selection of what I thought to be organic seeds, based on the special section that touted them as such. As I clicked through their glitzy website to read more about the various tomato and pepper varieties, I also took note of the icon on each description that indicated they were Certified Organic. I ordered several intriguing varieties of peppers and tomatoes
It was only after I received my seeds did I notice that nowhere was the required USDA Organic insignia that appears prominently on all of my other seed packets, invoices or packing slips. I then went back to the online catalog and determined after clicking through several more windows, that their seeds were "grown organically by our suppliers." Well, that's not good enough.
And, to add insult to injury, there is no published telephone number for this company - all communication is online. So numerous attempts to contact the company to lodge my complaint, have gone into the "live chat" section with no response.
Meanwhile, I was successful in locating most of the varieties from my usual reputable seed dealers.
And the moral of my story is to look for the USDA organic seal if you want to be sure you're getting organic products.
And speaking of organic products, many of the USDA certified organic seeds planted recently haved poked through the USDA certified organic seed starting mix. I'll soon put together a list of varieties of certified organic tomato, pepper and other vegetable starts we'll be offering for sale this spring.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Snow And Starts

from seasons past
Seeds have arrived, seed starting medium, seeding flats and pots are waiting. And, right on schedule, the snow has settled in.
Despite the view out the windows, we are excited about the extensive selection of certified organic plant starts in the works here on Metzger Heritage Farm.
We plan to offer tomatoes and peppers for sale again this year. While we would appreciate having folks pre-order these plants, we will have extras to sell at the Potter County Farmers' Market beginning Memorial Day weekend.
We are also starting a large variety of other plants including onions, squashes, cucumbers, eggplants, herbs and zinnias. We would be happy to grow those for you too.
A detailed listing of the varieties will be posted on the blog this week. You may call 814-274-8004 (that's our home phone) or email with questions or to place your order.
The warm weather last month enticed me to start a small planting of lettuce in the high tunnel.

new lettuce planting with 'poor man's fertilizer'
And if you're wondering about the fertilizer referenced above, check out this blog post from 2012.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Baby 'Carrots'

Are these baby "carrots" typical of school cafeteria fare?
(the penny is photographed to show the diminutive size)
My granddaughter gets these little bags of carrots in her school cafeteria and brings them home in her book bag. She tells me that they don't taste very good. I didn't try them. I can report, however, that the  puppy loves them!

Contrast the baby "carrots" with these beauties grown organically on Metzger Heritage Farm.

How can local farmers get their wholesome produce into the hands and mouths of local school children?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Old Fashioned Food Preservation

When Arthur and I moved back to the farm where he spent his early childhood, we came upon an old piece of equipment, stored in the attic, that he identified as a food dehydrator..
It was a sheet metal box with shelves of hardware cloth, designed to sit upon the type of natural gas space heaters common in the mid-twentieth century. He remembers it being put to use by his great-grandmother who used it to dry apples. He also remembers fondly a dried apple cake and I need to find that recipe to share with you.
Thanks to our future daughter-in-law Jen, we have been introduced to newer ways to dehydrate fruits and vegetables.

Dehydrated peppers, tomatoes and calendula from my pantry
Our Nesco/American Harvest dehydrator features stackable plastic trays with a base-mounted fan. We have used it to dehydrate herbs, hot peppers and tomatoes to store for future use.

Calendula flowers prepared for drying

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Buy Local!

The Metzger Heritage Farm cart at Costa's Shursave Food Shop in Coudersport has been re-stocked with our luscious certified organic potatoes.  By shopping locally and putting a bag of Potter County organic potatoes in your cart, you are supporting the local economy.

Here's a recipe tailored to our gourmet potato assortment. It's adapted from Gourmet magazine. With organic potatoes, you have no fears about pesticide residue on the skins, so why not just scrub them and leave the skins on?

Red White and Blue Potato Salad

    • 1 cup chopped green onions, divided
    • 1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 2 Tb. white wine vinegar
    • 3 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 2 teaspoons salt (divided)
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 2-lb. bag of Metzger Heritage Farm Certified Organic Gourmet Potato Assortment
    • 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
    • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)
    • Paprika
  1. Whisk 1/2 cup green onions with yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar, 1 tsp. salt and pepper in medium bowl. Cover and chill dressing while preparing potatoes.
  2. Place all potatoes in large saucepan. (You may want to chunk them in order to have them all be the same size so they cook evenly.) Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and boil until tender – time will vary depending on size and variety of potatoes. Drain and cool to room temperature.
  3. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in large bowl. Add dressing, peas, and blue cheese; toss gently. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
  4. Sprinkle potato salad with paprika and remaining 1/2 cup green onions just before serving.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Summer Dreaming

Known in our neighborhood as "Summer Lilac"

This plant grows at the corner of the parking area in our front lawn. Now a tall, gangly shrub, it started as a small shoot from a plant that lives over the hill from us on Sunset Valley Farm. John Peet shared a cutting with us when I admired a similar plant that grows along Dingman Run Road where Dave and Betty Mottern live.
According to the University of Arkansas website, the name "summer lilac" was given to the early hybrids by French nurserymen, many of whom developed the French lilacs of that same period. During the 1920's the name "butterfly bush" became popular as a common name and seems to have replaced the first common name for the species.
While you're thinking of summer, don't forget that we will be offering our certified organic tomato and pepper plants for sale again in 2017. Details will follow but if you're interested in a particular variety, let us know ( and we'll try to find the certified organic seed to grow them for you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Organic Production

Are we the only ones who scour the produce department of grocery stores to compare organic vegetables ... and their prices ... with our own?

And when you see a sign for a Farmer's Market, do you stop to take a look ... and have a visit with the growers?

Sale price is $1.98 per pound for USDA Certified Organic apples
These were grown in Washington, where 60% of the apples
in the USA are produced.

Price is $2.99 lb.
And some of us even capture the images on our handy phone cameras.

The price is $4 lb. for USDA Certified Organic Potatoes
From Trader Joe's
So how do we price the certified organic produce we grow on our farm? We have been relying more and more on calculations that help us figure out the actual costs of production. As a result of that work, we have come to the conclusion that there are vegetables we have grown for sale in the past that cannot be sold at a price that compensates us for the cost of production.  And there are others that can be profitable if we pay attention to the variables.

The USDA has the following advice for organic growers regarding pricing:

"Your pricing strategy speaks volumes about your business. You will quickly earn a reputation as fair and ethical if you have a good pricing strategy. The alternative is to be known as cheap, dishonest and desperate among consumers and competitors. Your pricing strategy should be consistent, accurate and reliable. Many people want farmers to have a good quality of life and are willing to pay a fair price for quality products, so price according to what you are spending and add a reasonable markup."
Buying directly from the farmer - either at the farm or at Farmers' Markets puts all profit into the hands of the farmer.

From a Farmers' Market in a nearby town