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After decades of trying to build an industry based around a diversion from the chemical-laden farming practices of agro-giants, organic farming still makes up an infinitesimal portion of America’s produce. I recently read a fascinating post by Steve Savage, over on Sustainablog, who did some analysis of farming data collected by the USDA.
Organic’s “failure” in the world of agro-business is a bit relative and may actually be yet another indication of how broken the system is rather than how crazy some people are for wanting fresh, unadulterated produce. We are not short on reasons why the face of American agriculture has to change (as well as plenty on why it won’t anytime soon). Many of the obstacles that face organic farming revolve around the inherent variability in natural, open farmland. The ability to regulate temperature, humidity and water open up numerous possibilities that all point to higher, more consistent yields for many types of crops.
In his new book on Vertical Farming, Despommier also points to crop types like strawberries that can grow more plants per acre indoors than in the ground under the sun. Though also currently a small portion of overall crop production, indoor farming has plenty of room to grow. Though not all types of veggies share the same successes in greenhouse farming, particular examples like tomatoes continue to shine. Despite the strength in Savage’s analysis, there are still statistics pointing to a growing demand for organic products despite their cost premium. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. When it comes to a full-blown climate controlled greenhouse (vs a rain shelter or shade house), Organic actually has a problem. I do think that the Organic rules are overly restrictive if the goal is doing things the safest and most practical way, but Organic is defined in philosophical terms, not scientific terms.
The soil-based pest concern is one that has not been a factor to date on several projects using the encapsulation technology.
Further, I can very much tell the difference between an organic tomato grown in healthy soil and a conventional tomato.
I would not be surprised if there are organic farmers finding ways to address the inherent restrictions of organic farming, but so far it seems as though they are certainly not comprising the majority. It’s great that you can tell the difference between an organic tomato and one conventionally grown.
Yes, it is time to stand up against lobbyists of Big Ag who work overtime with obscenely big budgets, duplicitous marketers and aggressive lawyers to systematically put organic and smaller farmers out of business.
Sales of organic products have increased from US$5 billion nationwide a decade ago to US$24 billion today, according to the Organic Trade Association.
Growing tomatoes in containers really isn’t too different than growing them in the garden outside. One of the biggest benefits of growing tomatoes in containers is that you have 100% control over the growing conditions, whereas nature is in control when you’re gardening outside. While there are certainly benefits to growing tomatoes in containers, as with everything, there are disadvantages. One way to quickly eliminate the disadvantage of persistent and regular watering when you’re growing tomatoes in containers is to intall an automated drip irrigator to water your plants for you. Using more fertilizers once your plants have started to flower is never a bad thing, as doing so will help to jump start the process of fruit formation and will in turn result in a bigger crop. Now that you know everything you’ll ever need to know about growing tomatoes in containers, you’ll need some seeds!
Without a garden I'm in a real season of "blooming where I'm planted" and being creative with what this looks like.
I have a thing for summer tomatoes (a love affair truth be told) so early this spring we started seeds for a container-friendly variety of cherry tomatoes. My gardening, local-farm-loving soul has had an interesting time (read: sometimes difficult journey) since moving to the Gaspe. We live in winter wonderland here and tomatoes don’t have a long growing season in climates like these so a greenhouse like this is ingenious.
During these winter months we belonged to a group that connects local producers and growers with consumers.
For the size of the population that lives here there’s a lot going on in the local food movement.
If we stay at the next chalet for a couple years (that’s our desire) I may plant a small garden next summer. Farms, food clubs, tomatoes - these are a part of my food culture and I’m finding those pieces here in the Gaspe. Last fall we were finally able to start digging in the ground after an almost two year hiatus.
For tonight supper, a cauiflower, chickpea stirfry with rice, I added a bunch of chopped dried tomatoes (I have oodles right now). Our current way of dealing with pests (snails and rabbits) was to build an upright garden out of piping on huge posts.
I had a place to create order and routines, a space to support not just my people, but the guests of the Airbnb.
I've traveled through quite a few Canadian and American National Parks, both as a child and an adult. Five summers ago was a very significant summer. We had just uprooted our lives in the United States and living a good story became another way to phrase the kind of life I wanted.
In the last two summers, I’ve grown celeriac with no roots, blighted tomatoes, stunted sweetcorn and lettuces that ran up to flower before we could eat a single leaf. Admittedly, we’ve also enjoyed eating our own beans, courgettes, chard, basil and chillies. But I decided it was time to go back to veg-growing school to find out what was going wrong with the rest of it. Thirteen years ago, the Sarah Raven Cutting Garden course got me off to a good start when I was faced with a newly-acquired middle-sized garden and very little idea of how to deal with it. Since then, I’ve been on many gardening courses and talks, and have read countless books, magazines and blogs about gardening. There were quite a few husband-and-wife or mother-and-daughter pairs enjoying a day out together, and one professional gardener wanting to sharpen up her veg-growing skills. She advises you to write a list of the veg you’re planning to grow, and assess each one against a list of key questions. For example, Savoy cabbage gives you one colander of harvest in a season and takes 7-8 months from planting to harvest.
While the same amount of Swiss chard will go from planting to harvest in 8-10 weeks and is cut-and-come again, giving you about 60 colanders of leaves a season over a period of about 6-8 months.

The vegetables that triumph in the grid are mainly the cut-and-come again varieties: chard, kale, beans, salads and herbs. The way you harvest your home-grown veg can make a big difference to how much veg you get and how long the season lasts.
The first is to cut the lettuce off a few inches above the ground leaving enough of the leaf to allow the lettuce to re-generate. However, if there’s any sign that the lettuce, kale, chives or chard is coming up to flower, cut right across the plant instead.
In fact, coriander will give you a much longer crop during the winter than it will in the summer – it likes cold, damp weather.
Salad cut from the garden, spannakopita made with kale from the garden and edible flowers – lovely lunch! Good climbers for veg growers include La Diva cucumbers (which don’t need a greenhouse), Tromboncino summer squash that you can eat young as courgettes or let them grow into squashes and, of course, cherry tomatoes, beans and peas. If you’re growing seeds on a window-sill, cover a piece of card with foil and prop it against the back of the seed tray (furthest from the window).
There are both chilli and tomato varieties that are bred for hanging baskets, and they look lovely.
The way you prune garden trees will make a big difference to your garden's privacy and light. Despite the apparent strength of naturally oriented stores and markets, when it comes to planting acreage and shopping baskets, organics do not hold a meaningful presence at the table—largely due to lower yields and their affect on profitability. His reported conclusions give us a glimpse of organic food’s place in American agriculture—and you need a magnifying glass to see it.
Without the rising industry standards of genetically modified crops and the slurry of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, it is difficult (read: impossible) for organics to match the yields of other growers in the variety of climates in America.
Savage goes as far to say that, “The fact that so little cropland is organic after more than 30 years of commercial and research progress suggests that organic will never be more than a niche.” While possible, I am not so sure that organics should be counted out just yet.
I may be great at telling the difference between Coke and Pepsi, but I doubt I could discern between the taste of an organic tomato and its standard counterpart.
In the United States, we use 31% of our fresh water for irrigation purposes with most of that being comprised of farming. Rain, insects and weeds are all ecological effects beyond the control of the farmer that can wreck havoc on unprotected crops. When separated from the unknowns of nature, the very things that chemical products are meant to battle against are removed from the lifecycle of the plants. As we have yet to see any constructed models of a Vertical Farm, greenhouses comprise the entirety of this expanding marketplace. It is estimated that nearly 40% of all fresh tomatoes now sold in American stores come from greenhouses. I hadn’t heard of this company but it sounds like they are researching an interesting model.
I am certainly not a farmer, but I continue to read so much about the dependence that we have essentially grown into our crops and the resulting resilience in both insects and weeds (that in turn only promote more application of chemicals).
Plenty of organic farmers are using innovative technologies to grow prolific amounts of food in ratios which actually outpace yields of conventional farmers–consistently. The choice fell on LED lighting and the first plum tomatoes produced via these lights has been harvested. Grower Corne Smulders will be putting loose tomatoes under light for the first time this winter season. We’re renting an apartment in Montreal for the month of June, and then “settling” into our next home the beginning of July. We were able to buy frozen blueberries, homemade bagels and pitas, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, herbs, and (if we were into that) raw cheeses.
I grew so many tomatoes in the winter in Florida (which makes me miss winter there so much more now that we are in Texas) but finally after returning from the Florida Trail last spring I started digging around in my mom's plot and garden in her backyard. Though to substitute for canned you have to reconstitute in quite a bit of water and the consistency will be different than canned.
At least here in the UK we can usually take our potted plants with us - not really an option when we lived in Australia and it was such a long time moving from one place to another.
We've been anxious to get started, but unfortunately Papa has had to work overtime every Saturday for the past few weeks, and we've had tons of rain every weekend. If you have a Gravatar account associated with the e-mail address you provide, it will be used to display your avatar.
And the Paradise Valley and Livingston, MT offered everything we needed, within a 20 mile stretch of highway.
When our friends in Montreal found out we were traveling for 6 weeks I was clear that this wasn't a vacation, it was a trip. This second way increases harvests by up to one third, because the plant goes on producing for longer. Add a salad herb (choose something that goes with the main meal you’re going to eat).
For example, somewhere along the day, I realised that my celeriac had probably suffered from being planted too close together and in a very crowded bed. It’s a relief to know that even people whose business is growing veg in gardens find sweetcorn difficult. I might as well stick with the chard, which crops prolifically and doesn’t wilt down to nothing in the cooking process. The light will bounce off the foil-covered card and the seeds will be less leggy and healthier. I was thinking of trying to grow in hanging baskets this year, what is the best kind of thing to try? Thompson & Morgan do two varieties of tomato for hanging baskets, and a chilli called Cayenetta, and there are probably options at your nearest garden centre or nursery.
Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to The Middle-Sized Garden with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Due to its inherent control over growing conditions, indoor farming could be the medium that allows organic produce to harvest more of the national market share.
According to Savage, harvested organic produce currently comprises a mere 0.52% of all cropland in the country in 2008. Despite the premium that growers receive for organic produce, on average they only pull 60-80% of traditional farmers harvests from the ground, giving little incentive for farmers to switch at the end of the day—clearly, very few have. For me, the merits of organic are more about sustainability and the positive repercussions are numerous.
Large, non-organic farms solve these problems by a series of chemicals largely based in petroleum, but another solution is to migrate growing to the controlled environments of indoor farming; either greenhouses or, better yet, Vertical Farms.

On top of that, with hydroponic or aeroponic growing, farming can save 70-90% of the water used in open field irrigation. Greenhouse farming has grown in popularity over the past two decades in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. Though not all of these facilities strive to be organic, the switch would arguably be much easier for them then farmers working in traditional cultivation methods.
I’d be curious as to the balance between a building designed to utilize natural light vs. Would you consider this alarmist or is it just a bad situation that has plateaued rather than continuing it’s break-neck trend upwards? If organics are making up such a small portion of the food supply, but represent a more holistic direction for our agricultural industry then it might be time to explore more options to make the culture more accessible to more people and more successful to its farmers. But you forget how good a tomato can be when you haven’t tasted a heavenly one for years. The gardening gene skipped Damien altogether, so it’s the kids and I who garden, even if it’s just buckets that take up precious real estate in our tiny cabin. Oh yes, the United States most north eastern state has a longer growing season than our peninsula. Local, organic, soil grown tomatoes (not hydroponic) available almost year round in the Gaspesie, and beyond. I did it as a paid piece for someone else with the understanding that I would be releasing it myself also. Wild rocket and Swiss chard are the same, and some of the lettuces, along with parsley and chervil. Looking back, my good sweetcorn harvests were all when we first came here, and there were a couple of really hot summers in a row.
I do think about you all in Australia when I am netting my plants – at least I don’t have to use several layers of chicken wire! Good luck with it – hanging baskets will definitely need regular fertilising, by the way. To an architect in New York City, where organic products seem to be available on every corner, the number caught me by surprise. Despite its berth, the American farming process is not the hallmark of examples that we should look to for the prowess of health and efficiency. When it comes to all of those chemicals that “protect” the crops in the field, they have a second life far less admirable than their first defensive tour of duty. Indoor growing not only shields produce from all of the things we try to protect it from with chemicals, but in many cases it can do so with higher yields than open range, traditional ground farming with a fraction of the environmental footprint.
If organic farming is going to create a greater presence in American agriculture, indoor farming could be the vehicle it needs to meet burgeoning demand with fewer pennies and more picking. It’s like the frog effect, where if you slowly turn up the temperature in a pot of water on a stove the frog will slowly boil to death without noticing.
Grower Wim Peters gives the same attention to the quality of the fruit, as his father and grandfather did before him.
We’d have to build a 7 foot fence or something like that to keep those hungry ruminants out of our lettuce.
I should have been wading in there and wrenching off stems (carefully) around twice a week. Most of them find their way into stormwater runoff, which eventually mixes with our estuaries and aquatic ecosystems. Despite the fact they are fluorescents, that’s still a lot of energy used for growing. An article in the Jakarta Globe points to rooftop greenhouses becoming increasingly popular for restaurants that want to utilize valuable, sun-washed square footage while lowering the operating costs of their business.
It’s certainly a different model than other Vertical Farm proponents that conjure up pictures of glassy skyscrapers towering above low-rise urban development.
People are asleep and overstressed running to jobs they hate or distracted with wondering why they are so sick. Produce from Peters Nursery is sold under the ZON Fruit & Vegetables 'Roma Vine' brand. Dickson Despommier, Professor at Columbia and expert on the concept of Vertical Farming, “agricultural runoff is responsible for more ecosystem disruption than any other single kind of pollution.” Even with the chemical miracles, crops are still vulnerable to the same climactic events as their organic brethren.
The tomatoes are directly received by a steady group of customers in The Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. With cold you get a sticky, soft tomato." Externally it all looks fine - but the internal quality is lacking.
All I know is the one thing all human beings have in common is the love of truly good food.
That 1,200 m2 is slightly more than the area on which Smulders started growing the chopping tomato eight years ago.
The lines are short and all the energy you put in, you get back."Expensive cultivationThose short lines also explain why Smulders and ZON are brave enough to put the Intense tomato under light. The production of loose tomatoes under light is too expensive compared to the Spanish product.
Yet seller Maurice Langeslag of ZON fruit & vegetables already has the first orders in.
We supply to a lot of cutters and the quality has to be good for that." Sticky slices aren't an option. We compete with the Spanish plum tomato and they produce less vine tomatoes," explains Peters. From mid March unlit areas will come into production again and production will be increased to 11 ha of plum tomatoes and 6 ha of Tasty Tom. We can now avoid that risk." He points out the problems in recent weeks in the Spanish horticulture. Within the Intense market the lines are short and the demand is equal almost all year round. This is when people go on holiday, and buy less petrol station sandwiches," explains Langeslag.

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