THE WORLD’S PURE FOOD FAIR – September 8-10, 2015, Santa Rosa, CA

This annual event, founded and hosted by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has only been in existence for a few years but it has become HUGE!  Speakers, vendors, exhibitors, demonstrations, just about any type and variety of heirloom edible will be there.  I would love to attend… next year I’M THERE!

heirloom expo melons heirloom expo tomatoes heirloom expo1

The Power of Beneficial Insects

An organic and sustainable garden/landscape/farming operation can take care of itself. Mother Nature has crime fighters that are ready, willing, and very much able to take bad bugs down.

It is extremely rare for me to have any type of pest or disease problem.  I’ve been gardening organically since the late 1980’s, and here at the herb farm since 1996 when we bought the property.  The longer someone grows organically the less likely they are to have a problem, but last year my cucumber vines developed a big pest problem.  Within just a few days my cucumber vines went from lush and green to this:

Lots of dead and dying leaves… a very sad sight

I have so few problems with pests that I don’t know a mite from an aphid, so I can’t tell you what attacked my cucumber vines.  It was something almost microscopic because I couldn’t really see any bad guys, but their damage was painfully evident.

I don’t use any sprays or pest deterrents at all, not even those labeled organic.  I let nature take its course and I’m prepared to lose a crop if that’s the course nature wants to take. Even though the damage was severe I was fairly certain that justice would prevail and the many beneficial insects I have around here would come to my rescue.  So I kept my fingers crossed, my camera ready, and within a day or two the troops came to my rescue.  Lady bugs (actually lady beetles), green lacewings, dragonflies, house flies, and others I couldn’t identify swooped in to help me out!

 Lady beetles to the rescue!

These pictures were taken over a period of 18 days.  From the severe damage shown in the first picture to the new growth and restored health in the picture just above, Mother Nature fixed the problem.  I did nothing except document the process with photos.

I have had people tell me they are organic unless they have a bug or disease problem.  If you spray, dust, or apply pesticide in any way at any time you are NOT organic. Furthermore, not only are you killing the bad bugs but you are also killing the good bugs that kill the bad bugs!  And the use of chemical fertilizer applied to the soil or plants themselves is not organic either.

Organic growing is not an overnight solution.  It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes the understanding that at some point (usually within the first couple years of swearing off pesticides) you will lose a crop to bugs.  But don’t give in. Giving in will take you back to the beginning of your organic journey.  Be patient and be kind to the beneficial insects that will make the journey worthwhile.   Trust me.

Farm Stand and Farmer’s Market Produce – Organic?

We can be reasonably assured when buying organically labeled produce at the grocery store that it really is organic.  But what about when shopping from farm stands or farmer’s markets?  There is no oversight or regulations when it comes to individuals selling their products.  You’re relying on the information they give you.  But is that information truthful?

If proprietors advertise or claim their produce is organic (or “natural”) you can better determine if their claims are authentic by asking some questions:

  1. How long has your operation been organic?
  2. What do you use for pest control, disease control, fertilizing?
  3. What kind of soil or soil amendments do you use in your garden beds?
  4. Do you use animal manure?  What animals?  Where does the manure come from?  What are the animals fed?  Are the animals given antibiotics or other medication?

If the proprietor cannot readily answer the above questions, buyer beware!  Organic farmers love to talk about their organic practices and educate the public on the importance of growing organically.  Ask us questions!  We are eager to share our experience, knowledge, and growing practices with you!  If you encounter anyone claiming to be organic or “natural” but they hesitate or cannot readily answer the above questions then I would doubt that their claims are true.

organic farming sign

What is organic? What is sustainable? What is natural?

Or-gan-ic (adj.) – (1) Of, marked by, or involving the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are strictly of animal or vegetable origin; (2) Raised or conducted without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals; (3) Simple, healthful, and close to nature.

Sus-tain-a-ble (adj.) – (1) Capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage; (2) Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.

Nat-u-ral (adj.) – (1) Present in or produced by nature; (2) Of, relating to, or concerning nature; (3) Faithfully representing nature or life.