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Organics by the Numbers – Is it Time to Consider a Career as an Organic Farmer?

USDA-organicVeggies

Touch the Soil News # 144 The Organic Trade Association (OTA) represents over 6,500 organic businesses across all 50 states. Members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, retailers and others. The OTA recently reported on the current state of Organics. “Our latest industry data show robust demand and great opportunity for the organic sector,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. Thanks to the work of the OTA, the following information is made available about organics in America. U.S. Organic Sales reached $39.1 billion in 2014, up 11.3% over 2013. (see Info Graphic #1 below) Organic non-food sales reached $3.2 billion in 2014, up…

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Green Sense Farms – Deeper Insight to the Change Coming

NoLandFarming-m-0416

Touch the Soil News # 133 When it comes to raising food, most farmers think about things like land, tractors, harvesting equipment and chemicals. For some crops this may not change much. For other crops, particularly lettuces, micro-greens and herbs, the future may be totally different. Green Sense farms, working with Royal Phillips – a global leader in lighting – is taking a completely different approach. Capital expenditures for setting up farming include specialized LED lighting, a large indoor facility, growing towers and a physical location that puts them within 100 miles of 20 million people. Photo courtesy of Green Sense Farms – from left to right Rob Schlyer -…

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Dacha Gardening – Small Gardens Produce 51% of Food in Russian Federation

russian-dacha1

The discussions will rage onwards in terms of dependence upon industrial food systems – and why there should be an exodus. In an interesting twist of fate, turns out home gardens produce 41.1 percent (in terms of value) of the crops and meat produced in the Russian Federation. Small peasant farms produce another 10.2 percent of the Federation’s food. (Source: Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation for 2013 – most recent year for which numbers are available.) Popularly called Dacha Gardens, these home enterprises produce approximately 80 percent of the Federation’s fruits and berries, over 66 percent of the vegetables, 80 percent of the potatoes and nearly 50…

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Should Hydroponic Enterprises Be Allowed Organic Certification?

National_Organic_Program

The subject of hydroponics receiving organic certification is raging. On April 25, 2015, The Washington Post brought the issue to the mainstream public. While the debate has been going on for years, it has heightened recently. Jeff Moyer, longtime farm director of the Rodale Institute was quoted by the Washington Post as saying: [quote]“Those heads of lettuce that are grown indoors? Yes, they are beautiful. But it’s just a green leaf with water in it. They can’t possibly have the vitamins and minerals that lettuce grown in the soil would have.”[/quote] Moyers words hit the core of the debate – should soil-less forms of food production be allowed organic certification? There…

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Food Hardship – Is the Solution Food Gardening?

AmpleHarvestRegisteredFoodPantries

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) recently published its 2014 National, State and Local Index of Food Hardship. Food hardship is a state of being in which there is struggle to put food on the table.  According to the report, food hardship afflicted between 17.2 and 18.6 percent of Americans at various times over the last seven years – that’s between 55 and 61 million people. Here are some of the highlights: Mississippi has the highest food hardship rate of any state at 24.7 percent. About one out of every 4 people in Mississippi is food challenged. North Dakota has the lowest food hardship rate of any state at…

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Katie’s Krops – How One Girl Re-instates the Connection Between Gardening and Solving Hunger

KatieWithCropsNow

As much as we may try, the connection between eating and raising food is permanent. From subsistence farming, the world passed the gavel of raising food to farmers and now to industrial farming. In world almost exclusively organized around dollars, hundreds of millions of people have been externalized from the money it takes to buy from the farm via the grocery store. It took a nine year old girl to figure out that solving hunger was somehow related to raising food. Back in 2008, Katie Stagliano – a third grader, took on a school project to raise a cabbage. Her cabbage turned out to be a 40 lb. wonder. She…

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Old New MacDonald Had a Farm – eee iii eee iii ooo

SprayPlane

What is a farm and what is food? I remember my shock when learning about Roundup Ready GMO corn. The corn has been tampered with to create toxins. When the corn borer eats the corn, it kills the pest. Since when does a plant – whose role is to be a pesticide – become food? Most sweeteners, especially in soft drinks, come from corn sweeteners sourced from GMO Roundup Ready corn. In my previous life, as a consultant to stressed farms, many of my clients raised sugar beets. Controlling weeds was a major problem. Around 2008, the sugar beet industry – nationwide – converted to GMO sugar beets. The sugar…

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Aquaponics – Reaching for New Heights in Food and Urban-Tech Farming

AquaponicPlantFarm

Aquaponics is about symbiotic relationships in the production of food. Soil-less hydroponics uses the magic of plants growing in a water medium to cleanse the water. Once clean, the water is cycled into fish ponds or tanks where it assimilates the waste products of fish. When the fish water becomes polluted, it is cycled back to feed the plants. Over the past few years, aquaponics has become the focus of repurposing old warehouse buildings as the farm-scape for aquaponic food production. Indoor controlled environments allow for production year round. Much of the original research for this type of agriculture came from the New Alchemy Institute during the years 1971 to…

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Lettuce – For Now, Rely on California, or Grow Your Own

NRCSCaliforniaLettuceField

Recently, while at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, I requested cabbage instead of lettuce on a particular dish. The restaurant owner was taking orders and, unsolicited on our part, unfolded a problem she was facing: [quote]I’m glad when people order cabbage, because lettuce has become a real issue. We normally get a box of lettuce for $40. Now a box costs $80 and the heads are small and often hollow. We have to work twice as hard in prepping the lettuce for our offerings. The dry weather in California has really impacted the quality of the lettuce.[/quote] California, which raises around 52 percent of the nation’s vegetables, produces roughly…

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Organic Hydroponic Lettuce

Organic Hydroponic Lettuce

This project started mainly because “everyone” said it couldn’t be done. Starting out with conventional/synthetic fertilizer, our customer see’s a niche market in organic lettuce production. He contacted many companies to assist and almost giving up when all returned back to simply say “it can’t be done”. Not sure what to do or how to do it he reached out to Kelp4less.com.   After understanding what his goals are, along with many conversations to discuss the specific’s of his grow operation, the “Organic Mechanic”  got to work! Setting up a completely organic fertilizer system to fulfill the niche market, our initial trial runs have come back a complete success. With…

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