Friday, July 18, 2008

Transparency

It seems that the tomato scare has changed buying and eating patterns. According to an AP poll, a majority of people surveyed want more information about where their food is coming from.



An Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds that nearly half of consumers have changed their eating and buying habits in the past six months because they're afraid they could get sick by eating contaminated food. They also overwhelmingly support setting up a better system to trace produce in an outbreak back to the source, the poll found.

(See full article here)

So, does that mean that in addition to promoting NAIS or National Animal Identification System, we're now going to be facing regulation for the NFVIS system? The National Fruits and Vegetable Identification System?

A question comes immediately to mind: Does the increased consumer demand for labelling extend to farmer's markets? AND, will the consumer be willing to pay more to have their produce labelled?

One of the reasons for shopping at a farmer's market is that you get to know "your" farmer, and you can ask them just exactly how their food was produced. In fact, the article mentions that some of the consumers interviewed indicated they would prefer to shop at the local farmer's market because they TRUST their local farmer.

But one thing I have observed at some farmer's markets is that not all the vendors are selling produce they have raised themselves - some of them don't even bother to hide the crates and baskets that are labelled "California" or other locations. When I ask these guys if they raised the food themselves, they usually give me a roundabout answer - like, the "English" guy pointed to the Amish guy and said, "no, he did" and the Amish guy didn't really answer. Talking to DH, he said yes, he probably raised it, raised it right out of the bin at the wholesale produce market and raised it into his truck.

There are no labelling requirements for produce at the farmer's market! Although there are certain requirements for labelling baked goods and other home-produced products. Some farmer's markets may have rules about the type of items that vendors may sell - some are farm products only, no crafts or "flea market" items, for example. Some will not allow you to resell packaged products, but will allow reselling of produce! It is usually up to the market manager to make the determination.

So, if consumers change their buying habits for produce by going to a Farmer's Market, they had better be savvy enough to inquire about whether the farmer is selling his/her own product or whether it is just a reselling of product from a wholesaler. Selling non-local produce at a local Farmer's Market (or farm market) defeats the consumer's intention to buy locally to avoid or limit exposure to food contamination. Putting a bar code on a tomato that allows the product to be traced back to the producer - providing that transparency that is going to be demanded by next year's consumers.

I was just inquiring today about the possibility of renting a commercial kitchen for canning salsa and was pointed to the CIFT (Center for Innovative Food Technologies) kitchen in Bowling Green, Ohio. Poking around the CIFT web site, I found a video that presented the Ohio Cottage Food Regulatory Changes. The audience for the presentation seemed to be small commercial producers, not "cottage industry" farmers. It does discuss some of the labelling requirements, but not in detail, and indicates that the Ohio Department of Agriculture is really concentrating on educating the market managers, not necessarily the farmers bringing products to market.

The video made one thing perfectly clear - the current state of regulation in Ohio is not very clear. The lines between "home" or cottage food may be a little fuzzy. Caveat emptor!

Calling all farmgirls- Can she make a cherry pie?

I'm planning a North Central Ohio Farmgirls chapter meeting in August, either the 2nd or 3rd weekend. We'll be putting on our aprons and making cherry pies. It will be a great time, and we'll talk about the possibility of a "henhouse" on Mary Jane's web site. Please register by sending me an email or calling.

Deer prevention

Went to TSC today and priced the electric fencers to keep the deer out of my garden. I ended up buying a product that you spray on your garden plants (or around the perimeter, I hope) that is made of putrified eggs, garlic, and cayenne pepper.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

D#%!@ Deer!

I see the deer have been making themselves at home in my garden. At least I am pretty sure it is the deer and not the baby rabbit I noticed at the edge of the yard tonight. They've been munching on the lettuce, the cucumbers, and really feasting on the corn. I'm going to be lucky if I harvest two ears of corn here in Ohio.

Last year my dog Chip was probably effective at keeping the deer at the edges of our yard. Since he passed away in January (possibly from tainted dog food, it was a month before all the publicity about the pet food poisons came out) and I didn't replace him, the deer have evidently lost their shyness.

One of my neighbors has an electric fence around his garden. I've also seen 8-foot high netting advertised. Probably either is effective, but neither is attractive.

I picked another 8 zucchini tonight. We haven't had any rain this week, I am surprised they are growing so quickly! I gave 5 to my daughter two days ago, so that makes a total of 13 in addition to the babies I harvested early.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tomato trellises and Cages

Yesterday and today I put the bamboo trellises and wire cages around my tomato plants here in Ohio. It might be a few days late for some of them, some varieties are growing like mad. I can really tell the difference between the determinate and indeterminate varieties.

I picked the first baby zucchinis today, and fixed them for lunch, tossing them with pasta and mixed vegetables and some parmesan cheese. One zucchini plant is looking wonderful, one was eaten by deer right down to the stems (but it's coming back) and the third looks like it has some kind of fungus or virus, the leaves are wrinkling.

We had a setback today, found water in the basement from the water filter for the icemaker - it leaked into a ceiling tile that collapsed on top of my desk. While cleaning up that mess, we noticed another source of water on the floor - there is a leak under the heat pump. DH checked it out and found that the condensate pan is totally rusted. We are weighing the options for repair - the heat pump is old, way past its expected end of life, but still works. Just replace the pan, or the whole heat pump at 10 times the cost? Then, we found out that the dehumidifer that is only a little over a year old has stopped working too. Arrggh.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lettuce bolting

I missed the Farmer's Market in Bellville this week. I have several heads of lettuce I could have taken, but didn't go. I did stop by to drop off empty egg cartons and look for fresh eggs, Joan's mother said she sold out early, if I had taken my lettuce I probably would have sold out too, as mostly the people there had baked goods.

I've given away 5 heads, used two for DH and myself, plan to take 3 with us when we go to the farm next, and will take 2 to my daughter tomorrow.

The lettuce is close to bolting. I arranged a number of my shelving unit shelves over the heads, and then draped the shade cloth from my green house over the shelves, and weighted them down with rocks. Hopefully that will provide enough shade to cool it down 5 to 10 degrees.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008



The bees are still going out for a last bit of nectar an hour before sunset.

Apple tree

I trimmed this tree this spring before it leafed out. I don't know what variety it is - but the blossoms came a week or two later than the rest of the orchard. There was a late freeze and a lot of the trees have no apples - but this one does. I still don't know what variety!

Knee-high?

I don't know if the Cloud Nine sweet corn in this field will be "knee-high" by the fourth of July - I doubt it. We planted it the week of Memorial Day - but the soil in this field is poor. DH had some problems with the corn planter, it gave up the last gasp this year, we'll be looking for a new one the next time we plant sweet corn.

How Sweet it Is

DH planted "How Sweet it Is" sweet corn here - this field has a lot of moisture, in a low spot, but also has good drainage. It should do well.

Garden at the farm




I counted 73 tomato plants and 71 pumpkin plants that I planted at the farm. Since I just planted the tomatoes this week and last I don't know if they will actually have time to establish a root system, set flowers, and ripen fruit, but since I don't have room at home to plant them I guess any tomatoes I get here will be a bonus. The pumpkins were an afterthought, since he tilled up the whole field and didn't have enough corn seed to plant it - I never have room for pumpkins at home.

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