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Always Organic ~ Always GMO Free

2-19What’s the rub when it comes to GMO free and organic? Understanding where the organic and GMO free movements connect and do not connect can create some friction or rub some people the wrong way. I would like to tackle the organic, GMO free definitions. This opinion is my own, shaped by 20 years in the good food movement (my oh my, where did the time go?) and countless conversations, workshops and books I have read. I have been blessed to know and interact with some of the most incredible farmers, food activists, and conservationists during this time.

The organic movement was founded in direct response to the abuse of the soil and continual decline of the nutritional value of food. In the early days, the farmers or visionaries behind this movement recognized that there is a big difference farming with nature versus trying to conquer nature. These die-hards respected the soil and recognized that a functioning farm should resemble a healthy eco system. From this foundation, the organic food movement has developed a list of what can be called “best management practices.” These practices govern what can be applied to the soil and when it can be applied, and it is governed by third party certifying agencies and the USDA.

It is important to know that organic does not mean “no sprays,” no pesticides, or no herbicides because there are naturally derived pesticides (like bt) or herbicides (like vinegar) that can be used. Organic does mean that no synthetically derived sprays, pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers can be used. Organic farming is a system of farming and it requires different management principles than non-organic farming, but organic farmers still have an arsenal of sprays, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers at their disposal. The difference is from what source they are derived—natural or synthetic. They are also GMO free by definition, since GMOs are prohibited by National Organic Program (NOP) standards.

The GMO free community is an important movement that is gaining lots of traction. We are seeing labeling initiatives springing up all over the place. But is GMO free better for you? Yes and no. It is true that a GMO free label means that these food products have been processed with beans, corn, or canola that have not used genetically modified organisms in the seed stock. But if the label doesn’t also say USDA Organic, it means that that product is grown non-organically using synthetically derived pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. So while the seed itself is not laced with pesticides or herbicides, the plants are more than likely sprayed with them. This is an important distinction, which means that GMO free products fall into the same category as non-organic fruits and vegetables.

Your best bet is to eat organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains and organic processed foods to avoid food that is farmed with synthetically derived pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Organic is better for you and better for the soil.

Which is why Klesicks is always organic and always GMO free!

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Garnett Yam Chips

fritos-de-camoteINGREDIENTS
2 yams
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and place oven rack in the center of the oven.

Rinse and dry your yams and slice them as uniformly thin as possible. If you have a mandolin, use it.

Toss slices in a touch of olive oil to lightly coat, then sprinkle with salt. Lay out in a single layer on parchment paper and gently transfer the sheets directly onto the oven racks.

Bake for about 2 hours, flipping chips after one hour to ensure even cooking.

Remove once crisp and golden brown. Let them rest for 10-15 minutes to crisp up. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: http://minimalistbaker.com/baked-sweet-potato-chips/

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Time to Prune

Last year, we “top worked” some Comice pear trees in our orchard—36 to be precise. We saved 12 of these trees to pollinate the Buerre Bosc pears. I planted the orchard five years ago, but the Comice pears have not performed well and seemed unhappy in our microclimate. The Bosc pears, however, took to the microclimate like a duck takes to water. So this winter, I cut some scion wood from the Bosc pears and am going to “top work” the last 12 Comice pear trees. Last year, we grafted the Comice pears over to Conference pears and four Asian pear varieties. The picture in this article is Stephen cutting off the “nurse” limb we left to stabilize the tree from the aggressive pruning.

Definitions:

Top working is a term that refers to grafting a new variety onto an existing tree. In a sense, you are working on establishing a new “top” for the tree. It can save a few years in establishing a new variety  and  lots of dollars.  “Top working” makes sense if you are happy with orchard layout, irrigation tree spacing, and if the new variety is compatible with the existing root stock.

Nurse limbs are designed to allow the tree to funnel energy to the new shoots that have been grafted onto the top of the “stump.” It works well because the “nurse” limbs are lower and the tree begins to put energy into building a new top. In the following spring we come back through and select the best of the grafts and cut off the “nurse” limbs.

Grafting is the process where one variety is grafted into or onto another tree. As mentioned earlier, it can really speed up the process of getting back into fruit production by 2-3 years.  It is a relatively straitforward process, but you need to be ready to do it when the weather is right, towards the end of April. You also have to gather the scion wood in the dead of winter and store it at near freezing to keep it dormant.

Scion wood is the wood that is grafted onto the existing tree. We typically use a 4-6 inch piece of wood with 3-4 good buds (buds become the future branches). Amazingly, as the main tree adopts the grafts, they will grow 2-4 feet over the summer. And now we are selecting the best “grafts” from last year to grow the new tree.

If all things go as planned, we should see a small crop next year of Conference pears and a larger crop of Buerre Bosc pears in two years from the “top worked” trees this year.

tristan-sign

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My Head is Swimming!

imagesI have been at three farm conferences in three weeks and the amount of information is overwhelming. Literally, I feel like I have been drinking out of fire hose.

The first was the Eco Farm Conference in Monterey, CA. That was a tough place to visit :). This is the conference where the hardcore organic food movement gathers annually. Lots of great classes on food systems, local agriculture and environmental initiatives. At this conference I was able to connect with other growers, buyers and foodies. Lots of optimism and hope for the future of organic food. And I wholeheartedly concur that the good food movement is alive and well.

The following week I found myself in Coeur d’Alene, ID at another meeting. This one was a part of a the local farm bank that I work with. At this meeting I found myself sitting among farmers who farm thousands of acres. This agriculture group refers to themselves as Agribusiness or production Ag. Even though I don’t farm that kind of acreage, I had been invited to the table to get in there and talk about healthy food and healthy farming practices and also listen to the wisdom these farmers have to offer. Also, this group is dealing with Succession Planning, so a good amount of time was spent on the importance of “planning to pass” the farm onto the next generation of farmers. The big take away for me at this conference was to ensure that as I plan for the future, I update our wills!

But, sadly, I have to admit that coming from CA to ID, the two conferences were more like the weather in more ways than one. You could say that one group drinks Bud and grows the Hops for it and the other is more likely to grow the bud and smoke it. I will let you decide which group does which (just for the record, I do neither). Tragically, both groups view each other as enemies. I think there is a lot of common good that can be shared between both groups if we could be less democrat and republican, liberal and conservative, or quite frankly, just plain civil.

But the last conference in Spokane was about growing nutrient-rich food! Now this is a breath of fresh air! The growers here are giddy with the results they get farming with nature and not against it. It is about using soil and foliar biology to build nutrition in the plants that feed YOU! Now this is right up my alley—large growers, small growers, organic or mostly organic growers, all focused on not only replacing chemical inputs with organic inputs, but farming with a whole different set of principles that put the soil first, not profits.

This is why I farm biologically, why I farm the soil, because the soil is everything. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “A nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself.” This famer and the farmers we work with to feed you every week are a part of the solution, farming living soil and producing living food.

Hurry up spring, as I can hardly wait to start farming!

tristan-sign

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When in doubt, make a frittata!

peruvianchick_frittataLike the traditional Spanish Omelet, the frittata is a thick, hearty omelet filled with vegetables, cheeses, meats or even pastas.

While an omelet is a thing of fragile beauty, dependent upon the perfect technique and immediate eating, the frittata is more accommodating. Cut a couple of slices, serve with salad, beans or grains and voila! Dinner is ready.

The options are endless. I tend to be partial towards the traditional “Spanish Tortilla”. The potatoes, are cut into thin slices and then fried in olive oil together with sliced onions until they are soft, but not brown. The potatoes and onions are mixed with raw beaten and salted eggs. This mixture is returned to the pan and slowly fried. Then, instead of flipping the frittata, place it under a hot broiler to set and brown the top.

The key to getting it right is letting it cook slowly on top of the stove until there is just a shallow puddle of raw egg left on top, and then sticking it under the broiler for just a few minutes.

Of course, eggs are just the beginning; the most distinctive aspect of the Italian frittata compared to similar preparations, is the creative and imaginative use of all kinds of ingredients.

Other ingredients, like green or red peppers, chorizo, shrimp or different vegetables, may also be added. Once you have grasped the basics, frittatas are really easy to improvise. For a 10-inch skillet, you will need about 6 eggs and 1.5 cups of cooked filling. I personally love the flavor that the layer of onions add, so at least ½ an onion makes it’s way into my frittata filling every time. And as always, cheese can be added at your whim.

I have compiled a few ideas for ingredient choices but this is just the beginning, after all the Frittata is an egg dish with endless possibilities.

Herbs and spices whisked into eggs: Rosemary, Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Basil, Oregano.
Vegetables (added in raw): Tomatoes, Peas, Green Onions.
Vegetables (cooked in skillet or roasted): Onions, Garlic, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Beets, Winter Squash, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Mushrooms, Zucchini, Asparagus, Eggplant, Greens (Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, Arugula)
Cheeses: Mozzarella, Cheddar, Parmesan, Gouda, Blue, Feta.
Meats: Cooked Bacon, Salami, Prosciutto, Ham, Chorizo, Roasted Chicken, Shrimp.

Enjoy!

Sara Balcazar-Greene (aka. Peruvian Chick)
Peruvian Food Ambassador
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Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup Spanish olive oil
6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
6 eggs
Salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a 10″ sauté pan. Add potatoes and onions and cook, lifting and turning, until potatoes are soft but not brown.
2. Beat eggs in a large bowl until pale yellow. Transfer sautéed potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon to beaten eggs. Reserve oil.
3. Heat 1 tbsp. of reserved oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add egg and potato mixture, spreading potatoes evenly in the pan. Cook uncovered until the bottom is lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
4. Bake until set, about 5-7 minutes. Invert, or serve from pan and enjoy!