Thursday, January 31, 2019

What's At Stake?

a plethora of toxic choices at your fingertips

It's not pleasant to venture into the gardening section of any small or big box store these days. They just stink of chemicals. You know what I'm talking about. It's unmistakeable in places like Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart - even in the back room Wagner Hardware in Coudersport.

Pesticides are created to kill. They are poisonous to living organisms, including plants, wildlife, pets, your neighbors, your family and you. Of 30 commonly-used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked to cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 to reproductive effects, 26 to liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity and 11 with disruption of the endocrine system. Of those same pesticides, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 can leach into drinking water sources.

Poisons are absorbed through the skin, or by breathing sprays, dusts or vapors. You can be poisoned if you apply or are present during application of the chemical. If you touch contaminated grass, shoes, clothing, lawn furniture, etc. or put contaminated objects (think of toys, balls, golf tees, blades of grass) or fingers in your mouth, you have introduced the poison into your body. Chemicals can enter your system through inhalation so it isn't crazy to try to hold your breath as you walk into the "gardening" section ... or when you walk by your neighbor's yard treated with chemicals ... or when you drive up to Cole Memorial Hospital after the landscaping company has sprayed.

Monsanto (now part of Bayer Ag) is facing thousands of lawsuits from individuals who assert that Roundup has caused their cancers. One gentleman, a groundskeeper for a school district in California, was awarded a large settlement in a jury trial, claiming his Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma was caused by glyphosate (in Roundup). More trials are upcoming as Monsanto scrambles to keep records of their corporate subterfuge out of the public eye. (Lots of documents to add to your reading list here.)

And to those who believe the assertions of the "authorities," that these products are safe, I ask why are you not skeptical of these claims in light of all the evidence to the contrary?  I continue to be baffled about exactly why folks are willing to assume the risk of using these products to "control" weeds in their landscaping. Is is worth the risk to your health to eliminate the dandelions? Is it worth the risk to your neighbors ... or your neighbor's children... or your neighbor's pet?

For those who might be interested in reading more, here's a link that might lead you to a new conclusion.

On Metzger Heritage Farm, we are proud of our heritage as organic farmers and continue to work hard to raise quality, USDA Certified Organic vegetables, fruits and herbs to share with our community.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Year End Review (Final Installment)

I'm taking a little side trip from the year in review this morning but it circles back to the topic at hand.
Farmer Arthur looks forward to working on various projects in this old house during the off season. This winter, he's completing work on storage spaces in the attic. It has necessitated removing boxes of records and photos and it's my job to look through the boxes, discard unneeded papers and consolidate.
In the previous post, I mentioned our old friend, the Garden Way cider press. So what did I find in that box I went through yesterday? The original file folder with all the purchase paperwork, instructions for assembling the press and such. Then, in an envelope of old pictures was this.

Our two children with their beloved Auntie Snip who grew up on this farm.
Photo was taken in November 1986.
.... and now back to 2018.

... and here it is - or perhaps I should say here it was!

We were pleased with the first pressing of cider that could be sold to the public. Washing, grinding and pressing the apples at the cidery in New York was efficient and by running the product through an UV filter there before bottling, we could be assured that harmful bacteria that may have found its way into the process would be destroyed without affecting the fresh taste of the juice.
Fresh cider that has no preservatives added has a short shelf life, even under optimal temperature conditions. The natural fermentation process begins and lends a bubbly nature to the cider. Some folks appreciate that fizziness and the accompanying tartness.
In our second (and final) pressing just before Thanksgiving, we offered our customers the opportunity place orders in advance so we could deliver the product directly after pressing. In addition, cider was delivered to Schoolhouse Natural Foods near Eldred and Costa's Shursave Food Shop.

Will we make cider an integral part of 2019? That is a question to be answered in coming weeks and months. Once the costs of production are calculated, we will know more whether cider is a good fit for us.

Cider making was the final big event at the farm for 2018. Our inspection for USDA Organic Certification was completed in early November with no deficiencies to be addressed. We appreciate working with our inspector, Alvie Fourness, and the other folks at PCO (Pennsylvania Certified Organic). And just the other day, the paperwork that needs to be completed for the 2019 Organic Systems Plan arrived in the email inbox ... and the invoice followed shortly thereafter. Welcome to the new year!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Year End Review (Part 3)

Bumper Crop!

Apple Bonanza!

Apple Avalanche!

Apple Abundance!

Apple Plentitude

Yes, 2018 was the year of apples.
We planted the new orchard in 2012, selecting many varieties of apples, an experiment in taste,
texture, disease resistance and preservation. (Read about it here if you're interested.)
It takes a couple of years for fruit trees to get established and, as always, you're at the mercy of the weather, especially in this part of the planet, where wild swings in temperature and precipitation have become the norm, but that's a story for another post!
This year, we held our breath as the trees began to blossom and still the frost did not come. We watched with great delight as the little apples began to form. This was going to be the year of the apple ... and so it was!
The apples ripened over a time span of a couple of months, allowing us time to pick and market the bounty.

It was becoming obvious that this would be the year we embarked on a long-time dream to share the our apple cider with the public. For many years, we have used a small Garden Way cider press and made cider for ourselves and friends. It's a method too labor-intensive and inefficient for production.
After researching the latest cider regulations for Pennsylvania and checking in with our organic certifier (Pennsylvania Certified Organic or PCO), producing cider to sell became the goal.

Inspection of our cooler by the Department of Agriculture brought our Food Establishment registration. We located a cider mill in nearby New York state which would process our cider first thing in the morning so no chance of apples other than our certified organic varieties would find their way into our blend. PCO approved language for our labels.

And so, on a chilly October morning, baskets of apples were loaded onto the pickup truck and a couple of hours later, those baskets returned filled with gallons and half gallons of liquid gold.

(to be continued ...)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Year End Review (Part 2)

Did you know nasturtiums are edible - and delicious?

Those last weeks of spring, when the temperatures have warmed and the sun is high in the sky, bring folks to the farmer's market in search of fresh vegetables - often looking for sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, peppers. What they will find are lots of greens, lettuce, spinach, chard, mustard, kale, arugula and turnips, radishes, rhubarb. And that's what our CSA customers found in those early baskets.

Laura and Rytz will tell you that they spent many hours selecting appropriate seeds, nestling them in small planting blocks in flats, transferring them to germination chambers, moving them under the lights in the heated greenhouse space and finally locating them in the high tunnel beds.
Having the CSA upped our game substantially this - both in terms of vegetable production and in preparing that food for the customers. While it became apparent early in the season that this was going to be the year that we invested in a walk-in cooler to preserve the bountiful apple crop ripening in the trees, other farm work claimed our time.
But when all three of the old refrigerators we had used for storage began to freeze everything, the time frame shortened.
We had first observed a Cool Bot at Quest Farm in Almond, N.Y. and a similar style of cooler seemed to be the best option for our operation.
(If you're interested in learning more, click this link to see how it works.)
Project Cool Bot Cooler moved into high gear as plans were drawn, materials sourced and purchased and  calendars (and space in the shop) cleared to begin construction.
Our long-time friend, Dr. Mike Aucott, who ran his own small farm operation on neighboring Niles Hill in the 1970s and 1980s, lent his wiring expertise and ran the proper wires to power the new unit.

 We celebrated completion of construction in grand
style on a hot July afternoon with
Arthur and Laura cutting a ceremonial ribbon

Toasting with Kombucha
Lilies courtesy of J. Walter Metzger who planted a border of
these beauties outside the Shop more than 40 years ago

(To Be Continued.... )