Let’s Grow Organic!

Jun 25, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Food Fun, Going Green, Jim Bulls, Reedley News

by Jim Bulls

Check out the coupon for the Reedley Sandwich Shop at the end of this article.

As a west Texas farm boy, where five families shared a communal garden to the “Victory” garden at Pantex Ordinance Plant to the backyard garden at our new home in California, I have been around organic produce for a long time. In fact, organic farming has been around since the Revolutionary War and could be considered the primary farming method until World War II. Around that time, farming became a lot more technical and there was an explosion of new chemical products, many based on German patents that resulted in potent insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides used by farmers to control pests and increase yields. Continually improving farm equipment replaced the horse and mule, and commercial fertilizer replaced manure.

By 1950 agriculture was at a crossroad and the race was on between the proverbial hare (conventional agricultural) and tortoise (organic agriculture). Annie Eicher, the Organic Farming Program Coordinator for University of California Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County has put together a Glossary of Terms for Farmers and Gardeners. Her definition for conventional and organic agriculture is:

Conventional (Agriculture): an industrialized agricultural system characterized by mechanization, monocultures, and the use of synthetic inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides, with an emphasis on maximizing productivity and profitability. Industrialized agriculture has become “conventional” only within the last 60 or so years (since World War II).

Organic (Agriculture): referring to a type of agriculture that promotes the use of renewable resources and management of biological cycles to enhance biological diversity, without the use of genetically modified organisms, or synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Organic livestock production promotes concern for animal welfare, without the use of synthetic foodstuffs, growth hormones, or antibiotics.

While conventional agriculture was producing food for the masses–the masses began to expect and demand the very best in produce. Meanwhile organic agriculture was reinventing itself. The “hippie” revolution of the 1960s brought on a renewed interest in organic farming and returning to nature. The rules and regulations ran the gauntlet from inspector to inspector, county to county and state to state. There was no consistency.

It was about this time that Karen Harris and Richard (Dick) Peterson met and married. The couple lived in San Francisco working as an engineer and teacher. They decided to drop out of the San Francisco lifestyle and built a cabin in Nevada City out of materials from the demolished Riverview School. Dick and Karen eventually decided that farm life was the best way to raise a family, so they sold the cabin in 1975 and moved back to this area. In 1976 they bought a grape farm on Nebraska Avenue and restored the turn-of-the-century farmhouse. They also rebuilt the barn which has ended up being a focal point for family parties, class reunions, barn dances and, oh yes, packing organic fruit under the Valley Pride label.

The Barn

When Dick and Karen first started farming they hired a fellow that was into organic farming and he, in part was responsible for their decision to go organic. The other reason was that although they felt farm life was a wonderful way to bring up their three kids, they felt it was very unhealthy for the kids to be around pesticides. The Peterson’s converted to organic production in 1987. The grapes came out and they now grow peaches and pluots.

The Petersons

An organic grower must go through a lot of preparation before he can be certified organic. For instance, the land cannot be treated with any commercial product not approved by the organic specs for three years. Soil and nutrients are to be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, cover crops and only allowed synthetic materials. These rules have been set down by The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990, which was adopted as part of the 1990 Farm Bill that requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national standards for organically produced ag products to assure that products marketed as organic meet consistent, uniform standards.

Dick and Karen pack their own produce and then it is shipped locally. At this time they don’t participate in local farmers markets. They do, however, belong to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This is a movement that brings farm producers and community members together. Community members “subscribe” to a weekly share of produce from a local farm. The produce is delivered to a convenient site for pick up weekly. Prices range from $15 to $20 a week depending on the size of the box and the boxes are filled with fall, winter, spring or summer fruit and vegetables. In Reedley, you can sign up at Dianne’s Health Food on G Street. Karen says that they supply the peaches for the summer boxes.

Peterson's Shed

When I knew Karen and her two brothers back in school and Sunday school, who would have thought she would be living life down on the organic farm!

Why not get yourself some of those peaches and use them in these peach recipes here at KRL. And for dinner why not pick up some sandwiches from the Reedley Sandwich Shop!

Print this coupon and take to the Reedley Sandwich Shop:

Jim Bulls is a contributor to our Hometown History section, being a charter member of the Reedley Historical Society; he also restores vintage cars.


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