Howdy folks and happy start to autumn! Here we are in the second half of September just rolling along right into the fall months. If you look closely at the trees you can see the slightest tinge of gold and red hitting the leaves signaling that we’re coming into one of the most beautiful seasons in this region of the U.S. I feel so fortunate to live in the Midwest and witness such an amazing season. Today, we’ll be talking about the local scene from peppers to squash, what’s up with the national fruits and veggies and wrap up by talking about just what it takes to grow your organic produce.
Pepper growers in the Dubuque area are reporting difficult growing conditions this season. Although we wouldn’t necessarily know it because the temperatures have been so delightful for us humans, the peppers don’t feel the same way. Essentially, peppers thrive in the hot temperatures and don’t mind humidity either. Since we’ve been spared from even nearing 100 degrees this year, the peppers have developed so slowly and we’ll likely see an end to the season quicker than normal unfortunately, especially with hot peppers. South Slope Gardens in Dubuque, IA have reported extremely slow growth and maturity of their jalapeno and habanero peppers.
Our local celery season ended quicker than any of us would have liked. Let’s face it, Tree of Life Gardens in Cuba City, WI really knows how to grow the stuff and the taste is beyond amazing. The farm had an irrigation issue combined alongside of huge amounts of rain caused the celery to suffer a physiological disease. Farming is continuously trial and error. One of the things that has really made me such a supporter of Tree of Life (besides their awesome produce) is their ability to adapt and change to different conditions. These folks are beyond versatile and creative and we really appreciate that here at the co-op!
Tomato season is also on its way out. It’s sad for me because they’re my favorite fruit ever! We do still however have some heirloom tomatoes in the house from Minnesota as well as red slicers and cherry tomatoes. So if you’re still looking for those sweet tomatoes that remind you of the middle of summer, come on down before it’s completely over!
Good supplies of squash have been reported from local farms. Honey Hill Organic Farm in Potosi, WI has been delivering delicata squash for the last two weeks. It’s amazing in terms of quality and the sizes are ideal for small households and individual servings. Plus, you don’t need to peel them so they’re super low maintenance! We’re also carrying spaghetti, butternut and acorn squash for all of your squash needs!
WE HAVE LOCAL APPLES! Yep, you heard me. Appley Ever After in Viroqua, WI has delivered their first load. The first variety, Roxbury Russet is the oldest variety of apple in the U.S. It was rumored to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple and he had many trees at his home. The apple was discovered in the 1600’s! It’s a great eating apple or desert apple, perfect for applesauce. The other local variety we picked up was liberty. These apples are a really attractive variety for organic growers as they are disease resistant. Liberty apples are a good snacking apple and are crisp and juicy! We also have an awesome organic apple cider in the co-op out of Minnesota from Hoch Orchards as well!
Moving onto the national scene, the stone fruit season is coming to an end. We have our last load of peaches in for the season so if you’ve been missing out, now is the time to stock up and quickly! Pluots had an excellent run this year but alas, those too are about done for the year. Melons are also on their way out of the co-op. We have only been seeing seeded varieties now and within the next week or so their season is over. The grape supplies in the U.S. are thriving. We have red, green, and Thomcord (a seedless variety of concord) in and they’re so delicious! Citrus season is a whole other ball game. Lemons are difficult to source currently, and with that comes price increases. We’re seeing shorter supplies of grapefruit as well. January through March is the time when citrus is booming so we’ll be anxiously awaiting that! In the meantime we’ll enjoy apple and pear season here and embrace the cooling temperatures which are perfect for warm cider!
The word organic has become synonymous with so many things. But actually there are strict and specific guidelines by which organic growers have to abide. I’d like to fill you in a little on just what exactly organic is, and maybe you can spread the good word to friends and family who may doubt you or just not know exactly what organic means.
According to the Organic Trade Association, the organic industry hit $39 billion in sales in 2014. That’s right folks, this is not a fad or a gimmick. This is real people like yourselves demanding certain products grown and produced a certain way. On the produce end of things, organic certification entails stringent guidelines that are verified every year by non-governmental inspectors. The cost for certification isn’t cheap and every bit of the farm is analyzed. Without boring you and going into too much detail, farmers must ensure that no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals have leeched into their soils for the past three years. They also have strict guidelines on only being able to use organic fertilizers and methods for pest control and no usage of synthetics. That means that human-made fertilizers, bug/pest control, disease prevention/control and other applications are out of the picture. This helps to make sure the land and water on these farms aren't contaminated with carcinogenic or other harmful chemicals. In addition to these policies, inspectors also verify the record keeping practices of the farmer. Seed records must be kept (including receipts) in order to know that non-GMO seed was used. GMO’s are not and have never been approved for use in organic agriculture. There are many other guidelines organic farmers must adhere to, and you can check them out here. Just remember that the next time you’re at the farmers market or a farm stand, be sure to ask your farmer about what kind of seed they use and if they use any synthetic chemicals (because let’s face it, you don’t need ‘em!). Find out if your farmer is really sustainable and providing healthy items to you and your family.