Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another point for organic farming...

My friend Liz just sent me this great article about a study done at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Take a moment and read why organic is the wave of the future.

Study debunks myths on organic farms


The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.
There are about 1,500 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, at last count. They eschew the synthetic fertilizers and toxic sprays that are the mainstay of conventional farms. Study after study indicates the conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.
In fact, studies like the Rodale trials ( fst30years) show that after a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields. What is more, the study showed organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought.
These drought yields are remarkable when compared to genetically modified (GM) "drought tolerant" varieties, which showed increases of only 6.7 per cent to 13.3 per cent over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties.
More important than yield, from the farmer's perspective, is income, and here organic is clearly superior. The 30-year comparison showed organic systems were almost three times as profitable as the conventional systems. The average net return for the organic systems was $558/acre/ year versus just $190/acre/year for the conventional systems. The much higher income reflects the premium organic farmers receive and consumers pay for.
But even without a price premium, the Rodale study found organic systems are competitive with the conventional systems because of marginally lower input costs.
The most profitable grain crop was the organically grown wheat netting $835/acre/year. Interestingly, no-till conventional corn was the least profitable, netting just $27/acre/year. The generally poor showing of GM crops was striking; it echoed a study from the University of Minnesota that found farmers who cultivated GM varieties earned less money over a 14-year period than those who continued to grow non-GM crops.
Importantly, the Rodale study, which started in 1981, found organic farming is more sustainable than conventional systems. They found, for example, that:
. Organic systems used 45 per cent less energy than conventional.
. Production efficiency was 28 per cent higher in the organic systems, with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy usage.
. Soil health in the organic systems has increased over time while the conventional systems remain essentially unchanged. One measure of soil health is the amount of carbon contained in the soil. Carbon performs many crucial functions: acting as a reservoir of plant nutrients, binding soil particles together, maintaining soil temperature, providing a food source for microbes, binding heavy metals and pesticides, and influencing water holding capacity and aeration. The trials compared different types of organic and conventional systems; carbon increase was highest in the organic manure system, followed by the organic legume system. The conventional system has shown a loss in carbon in recent years.
. Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off. Water volumes percolating through the soil were 15-20 per cent higher in the organic systems. Rather than running off the surface and taking soil with it, rainwater recharged groundwater reserves in the organic systems, with minimal erosion.
Organic farming also helps sustain rural communities by creating more jobs; a UN study shows organic farms create 30 per cent more jobs per hectare than nonorganic. More of the money in organic farming goes to paying local people, rather than to farm inputs.
With results like these, why does conventional wisdom favour chemical farming? Vested interests. Organic farming keeps more money on the farm and in rural communities and out of the pockets of chemical companies. As the major funders of research centres and universities, and major advertisers in the farm media, they effectively buy a pro-chemical bias.
Still, the global food security community, which focuses on poor farmers in developing countries, is shifting to an organic approach. Numerous independent studies show that small scale, organic farming is the best option for feeding the world now and in the future. In fact, agroecological farming methods, including organic farming, could double global food production in just 10 years, according to one UN report.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Another week has begun and it appears that we are going to be getting more rain. Currently it is drizzling outside and it seems that it is going to be doing that for most of the day. Despite today's drizzle yesterday was a very productive day on the farm. After taking care of the items we have in the green house (just some leeks and shoots), my dad and I got to work harvesting some of our squash. We had already picked some last week but it is best to leave them out for a bit to get them ready to store. So our first squash job was collecting all of the ones that we had already picked. This included honey boat and baby blue squash. In order to get all the squash from the field to the barn we used the lawn tractor with a trailer attached. You can see in the picture below that we were loaded down and this was only our first trip.
We only lost one pumpkin from the back of the field to the barn.
All stacked in the barn. Not there permanent home but a good start.

So after we finished collecting and stacking all the squash we went out and picked some more. What kind did we harvest you may ask? Well we harvested spaghetti squash, gourds, pie pumpkins, some more honey boats, and a few other stragglers that were growing in the wrong row. In about 10 days we will go and collect these ones that are nicely piled in the field and add them to our barn collection.

By the time we were done with the squash it was about 4:30 so we called it a day, well my dad did anyway. At 6:30 Ryan and I went out and planted some kohlrabi that has been growing in the greenhouse. It was in the ground now or never and we worked until we couldn't see anymore. then we called it a day!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Farming for One

Christmas Lima cool
 So what happens when a person is left all by themselves for a week on a farm? Well one thing is for sure no blog updates are done and you spend your time running around like a crazy person picking for 37 CSA baskets and getting ready for marker. I was lucky to have Jesslyn come on Friday to help me out in the morning though. Our week was made extra busy because Scotiabank came and shot a little video and we had a cooking show come and do an episode here on the farm. Both were lots of fun but we obviously didn't get much done on those days.
 This is a bean plant from our winter crop section. They are coming up like crazy but so are the weeds. This afternoon/morning I am going to spend some time doing lots of hoeing. It is supposed to rain later so I think I will work on putting more tomatoes in the freezer.
 When one is alone and there are cute kittens they also take up a lot of ones time. I mean who could just leave that cute face all alone in a barn all day???
A fun project, dehydrating hot peppers. They turned out really well but too longer than I expected to dehydrate about a day and a half! Warning they do make your house smell/ stink a lot like hot pepper and remain spicy even when dried.

Well I had better go do some work now. I just got back from picking up 16 bags of food and everyone is happily fed which means its off to the field.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


So when you decide to freeze some corn on a warm Saturday afternoon (last Saturday) these are the things that I collected to do it. Computer to keep myself entertained, bowl to catch the corn, bags to put the corn in , a corn peeler and of course some water.

Oh and of course a big bucket of fresh picked corn!

This is the corn peeler that I picked up at the hardware store actually. I have seen it at kitchen stores as well but was glad to pick it up here locally. It is just like a peeler but it has a curved blade to cut the corn.
Ryan was so excited about the corn zipper that he came to help making the computer unnecessary. You can see that it works very well. Much faster than a knife I think.
That's a close up of the corn zipper after use. It cleaned really well I just washed it carefully because I imagine it is very sharp. We have some other peelers by Khun and they are all very sharp.
That is all the corn we got from that big bucket. It tempts us now every time we open the freezer. But we are going to save it for the dead of winter when we are really craving some corn.