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Archive for May, 2015

Fracking and Organic Agriculture

Organic farms produce food that is high in nutritional value, use less water, replenish soil fertility and do not use pesticides or other toxic chemicals that may get into our food supply or contaminate nearby bodies of water.

In order to maintain their integrity, organic farms have an array of regulations and an extensive accreditation process.  There is rising concern about the effect of Oil and Gas activities like fracking can have on organic agriculture.

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and various chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. Depending on the types of permits an operation holds, a fracking operation may be allowed to dispose of the waste water created into nearby bodies of water.  In other cases leaks simply happen and waste water seeps into surrounding soil or nearby underground water sources.

As of 2015, 11% of organic farms in the United States are within Oil and Gas Regions of Concern (ROC) and the number looks likely to continue increasing.

The five Regions of Concern under most observation are defined as follows:

  • Core: Areas where there’s less than 1 mile between fracking wells
  • Intermediate: 1-3 miles between fracking wells
  • Periphery: 3-5 miles between wells
  • Sub-Watershed: 5-10 miles between wells
  • Watershed: 10-20 miles between wells

 

 

Number of Organic Farms within Regions of Concern.

 

 

Sharing a watershed with Oil & Gas activity is a concern for a variety of reasons. Such as a complete alteration in soil composition and quality, due to the chemicals being injected.  Chemicals like Arsenic, Napthalene (carcinogen in mothballs), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), and Calcium Chloride and many others are in the chemical “cocktails” commonly used in injection wells.  These chemicals are also on the USDA’s list of substances prohibited for use in organic crop production. When these substances seep into water supplies or soil they can stay there for decades despite our best reclamation techniques.  Wetland soils are particularly vulnerable due to their moisture content and absorbency.

Another fracking concern for soils and landscape is an increase in earthquakes within ROC’s.  Ft. Worth, Texas, a region that had seen no seismic activity before disposal wells began operating has had over 60 earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or greater in the last year according to earthquaketrack.com. Earthquakes of course can cause physical damage to farms and packing facilities leading to loss of product and equipment.

This is all on top of the already existing reports of people and animals getting incredibly sick when exposed to contaminated water within ROC’s.  Stories like this do not bode well for organic livestock agriculture.

The effects of fracking on organic agriculture have the potential to be vast and long lasting and certainly warrant close observation.

You can click here for a pretty cool interactive map showing Organic Farms within Regions of concern in the United States

You can visit websites like fracfocus.org to research what chemicals are being used and what their purpose is.

Corn and Memorial Day Go Hand in Hand

Memorial Day is less than a week away and corn on the cob is a staple for your holiday party. The California organic corn season starts in May in Thermal, just 25 miles southeast of Palm Springs where the average high in May is 95.7°. In June, production begins to move north to Coalinga, just off Hwy 5, and continues up to Brentwood and Stockton in the Central San Joaquin Valley. Towards the end of the summer we may see some smaller growers north of Sacramento with inconsistent production.

Organic corn is difficult to grow because of a major pest, the corn earworm. We have seen very little evidence of worms this season but if you happen to find a one hiding beneath the corn silk, usually near the top of the ear, it is easy to remove.

 How to choose corn without peeling back the husk

  • Feel for plump kernels through the husk
  • Look for brown and sticky tassels sticking out of the top of the ear.  Black or dry tassels mean the corn is old
  • A bright green husk is a sign of fresh corn

 

Earl’s has delicious sweet bi-color corn for your Memorial Day Weekend. Share your recipes on our Facebook page.

Bi-Color Corn

Forelle Pears

Beautiful, bite-sized Forelle pears from Chile are here for a limited time. Slightly bigger than a seckel pear, they average about 2.5-3 inches long. The red speckled skin turns from green to yellow as it ripens. They are ready to eat when the neck of the pear slightly gives to gentle pressure.  The flesh is denser than most pears and leaves behind remnants of cinnamon on your tongue. A perfect match for that cheese happy hour, think gruyere and manchego with fresh California table grapes.

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La Colline Mangoes

Earl’s Organic is rolling in a variety of luscious La Colline mangoes out of Mexico. Take your pick of the Ataulfo, also known as the Honey, Yellow, Baby, Champagne and Manila, Tommy Atkins or the Haden Mango. One of our fruit buyers, Christie Biddle, is currently traveling to Mexico to meet the grower. We can look forward to hearing about her trip next week when she returns.

The small kidney bean shape of the Ataulfo mango and their vibrant golden color makes them easy to spot.  Don’t be fooled by their size- the thin pit means more fruit for you to eat.  They are packed with fantastic flavor and their smooth flesh means you won’t end up with stringy fibers caught between your teeth. The season runs from March to July. Currently ataulfos are coming out of Mexico but they are also grown in Ecuador and Peru.

La Colline Ataulfos

Ataulfo Mangoes

Tommy Atkins mangoes are medium to large sized and oval or oblong shaped with a gorgeous red blush covering a background of green, yellow and orange. The flesh is sweet tasting with some fibrous strands. The season runs from March to July and October to January. Currently Tommy Atkins are coming from Mexico but they are also grown in Ecuador and Peru.

Tommy Atkins La Colline

Tommy Atkins arriving at Earl’s warehouse

Just in, Haden mangoes! Haden’s looks and tastes very similar to a Tommy Atkin. They have a smooth rich sweet taste with very little fibers. The color of the skin is bright red over a yellow and green background with the distinguishing characteristic of small white dots. When ripe they have the most incredible fragrance. They are available in April and May and are sourced mostly from Mexico.

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR MANGO IS READY TO EAT

*Mangoes are ready to eat when the flesh yields to gentle pressure.
*The skin of the Haden mango also turns from green to yellow as it ripens.

California Table Grapes

The first organic California table grapes of the season have arrived at Earl’s Organic. Grapes come in three colors-red, green and black. The season starts in May out of the Coachella Valley, near Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, with early varieties such as the red flame, fireball and green sugarone. As we move into the warmer summer months the growing areas move north up through the entire San Joaquin Valley, producing the popular seedless green Thompson and red Crimson varieties. Although there is still production out of Mexico we have chosen to only carry local California grapes.  California grapes are available for most of the calendar year and can be found through January.

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Fireball Red Grapes

 

Fun Facts:

*There are over 80 varieties of table grapes grown in California

*Grapes are considered berries, with an average of 100 berries on a bunch.

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