Posts Tagged ‘home-grown food’

Another Reason to Buy Organic Strawberries, or Grow Your Own

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

A few years ago, I was sitting next to old-time soil geek Garn Wallace at a meeting of the Great Park Design Studio in Irvine, California. I was about to sample one of the strawberries on a fruit tray in front of us, and I must have made some lame comment about the berries being fresh picked from the strawberry fields outside the studio, which seemed to stretch toward the horizon. With a kind of nerdy, deadpan, pre-Valley-Girl Southern California twang, Garn noted that there wasn’t one living creature in the soil in those fields. No Sir Ree. That soil is blasted with fumigants like methyl bromide, then covered with acres of plastic. In which thousands of unblemished strawberries were glistening in the Southern California sun, waiting to be shipped to a supermarket near you.

Methyl bromide is a nasty chemical that is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer. But according to scientists at MIT, sulfuryl fluoride, the fumigant being used as a replacement, is just as bad, or worse. According to Ron Prinn, director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, it is “4,800 times more potent a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide,” a potential climate change disaster.

Seeing as everyone is planting a vegetable patch this year, why not throw in some strawberry plants? First-time berry growers can find step-by-step instructions here.

Full Employment for Gardeners

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

So, how long do you think it’ll take for many of the American households growing their first food garden this year to decide a) it’s a lot more work than they bargained for, b) they’re losing the battle with cutworms and weevils, and c) they need help? Former NPR correspondent Ketzel Levine and other laid off garden scribes may want to steal a page (and a business plan) from the two women in Portland who launched Your Backyard Farmer, a sort of urban CSA, to transform small city lots strewn with last year’s toys, overgrown flower beds, and compacted grass into productive miniature farms.

After conferring with prospective clients about their needs and favorite veggies (there’s even a downloadable pdf on Your Backyard Farmer’s website with a list of edibles for families to choose from), the two build raised beds and healthy soil, plant, and make weekly trips to tend and harvest. Every week, clients come home to find a basket of freshly picked, organically grown produce waiting at their back door.

As CSAs go, the service isn’t cheap—planting and tending a garden capable of producing enough produce for a family of three reportedly cost $1,575 last year—but those wishing to economize can opt instead for hands-on lessons on running a backyard farm for about $100 a month.