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