In this week’s box:
Many of you have probably heard or read about the recent Stanford University study that found no nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce. As you can imagine studies like these are discussed quite a bit in the organic farming community. Like many divisive issues there are diverse reactions: some farmers favor conspiracy theories centered on funding, etc.; others mention that there is a large difference between organic food grown in California, Mexico or China and that grown in Ohio; and there are even some farmers who agree with the study, but who are no less committed to growing organically.
We think that in light of a study such as this one it is important to continue to educate people about how differently things are done on organic farms versus conventional farms. It has taken us years of working on organic farms to understand some fundamental differences between organic and commercial farming. Specifically, certified organic farmers are required to run their farms as a holistic system. In other words a healthy environment produces healthy soil which produces healthy crops. Healthy crops in turn simplify pest and disease control and ensure a bounty of great-tasting produce for our customers. Furthermore, every step in this process is documented and reviewed each year by our certifying agency.
While driving around the neighborhood recently, I noticed a striking example of the difference between an organic and a conventionally managed farm. Immediately adjacent to Mile Creek Farm is a certified organic grain farm that was planted to wheat this year. Wheat is planted after soybeans in the preceding fall. It then grows vigorously during the spring and is harvested sometime in July. In the organic wheat field by us the farmer used a common organic practice which is to seed clover into the wheat crop in the early spring. The clover will grow underneath the wheat and will hopefully flourish once the wheat is harvested. (The clover struggled to make it through the hot, dry weather this season.) Having clover as a soil cover throughout the fall and winter helps to build soil organic matter and reduce soil erosion. It also will help control weeds, which may be mowed down while the clover continues to grow.
Organically managed wheat field:
On the other hand there was a nearby conventional wheat field that looked almost identical to the organic field near us through the winter and right up until harvest. Shortly after harvest though the fields looked very different. Once weeds began to grow in the conventionally-managed wheat stubble the field was sprayed with an herbicide and the whole field turned brown. It has been completely brown throughout the summer and will remain that way throughout the fall and winter. As is common in conventional fields, the cash crop (wheat, corn or soybeans) is the only crop allowed to grow in the field.
Conventionally managed wheat field:
This Week’s Recipes
Braised Leeks and Mustard Greens (substitute one of the leeks with some onion)
Sweet and Sour Peppers and Mustard Greens
(a favorite recipe of ours from the cookbook Asparagus to Zucchini)
3 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups thinly sliced onion
3 cups thinly sliced sweet peppers
2 cups chopped mustard greens
1 1/2 cups toasted cashews
Sauce: 1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup catsup
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
Combine sauce ingredients in bowl. Have remaining ingredients ready before beginning to stir-fry. Heat oil in wok or large skillet. Add garlic and onions; stir- fry 3-4 minutes. Add peppers; continue to stir-fry. Add 2-3 tablespoons water if necessary to prevent scorching. When peppers and onions begin to soften, add cashews. Stir-fry 1 minute, then add sauce mixture and mustard greens; simmer 1-2 minutes until mustard greens are tender. Serve over rice.