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What is farming with integrity?

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What is farming with integrity?
This Week's Vegetable Harvest:
  • Red and Green Gem Lettuces
  • Salad Mix
  • Fresh Tropea and Cippolini Onions
  • Broccolini or Zucchini
  • Green Beans
  • Colorful Bell Pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic Heads
  • Arugula
  • Sweet Corn* - from Didier Farms, Prairie View, IL
*Please note: The corn is not USDA-certified organic. 

This Week's Fruit Harvest:
  • 'Tango' Donut Peaches
  • Blueberries
  • White Peaches
What's New at the Prairie Wind Farm Stand
  • Colorful Bell Peppers - Peppers are making their debut appearance at the farm stand this week. Bell peppers will transition into Italian frying peppers and then to poblano peppers later this season. Make sure to get your stuffing recipes ready!
  • Hours: Open daily, 7am-7pm. We restock two to three times per week.
Farm Journal
Good evening from the farm!
Our website features the statement: "growing produce with integrity." This is a tangible intention that we live by, as we're not ones for throwing around words lightly. Heck, we wouldn't allow others to call us "farmers" for years because we didn't think we had earned the title! Jokes aside, we feel like a part of farming with integrity is living by the high standards set by the USDA's organic seal and this week, we're preparing for an inspection to receive that seal for our 16th season in a row.
The history of the USDA certification is an interesting one told in detail here. Here's an excerpt of the story:

"Beginning in the 1940s in the United States, J.I. Rodale provided the main source of information about "non-chemical" farming methods and was heavily influential in the development of organic production methods. Rodale drew many of his ideas from Sir Albert Howard, a British scientist who spent years observing traditional systems in India. Howard advocated for agricultural systems reliant upon returning crop residues, green manures and wastes to soil, and promoted the idea of working with nature by using deep-rooted crops to draw nutrients from the soil.

By the 1970s, increased environmental awareness and consumer demand fueled the growth of the organic industry. However, the new organic industry suffered growing pains. Although there was general agreement on philosophical approaches, no standards or regulations existed defining organic agriculture. The first certification programs were decentralized, meaning that each state or certifying agent could determine standards based on production practices and constraints in their region. An apple farmer in New York has very different challenges than an apple farmer in California, for example.

The downside of this decentralized approach was a lack of clarity about what "organic" meant from state to state. A movement grew to develop a national organic standard to help facilitate interstate marketing. In response, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 to develop a national standard for organic food and fiber production. OFPA mandated that USDA develop and write regulations to explain the law to producers, handlers and certifiers. OFPA also called for an advisory National Organic Standards Board to make recommendations regarding the substances that could be used in organic production and handling, and to help USDA write the regulations. After years of work, final rules were written and implemented in fall 2002.

Although the actual production techniques of organic food have not changed dramatically since the implementation of the national standards, "organic" now is a labeling term that indicates that food has been grown following the federal guidelines of the Organic Foods Production Act. The national standards also specify that any producers who sell over $5,000 annually in agricultural products and want to label their product "organic" must be certified by a USDA-accredited agency. Companies that process organic food must be certified, too. Any farms or handling operations with less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products are exempt from certification. Those producers may label their products organic if they follow the standards, but they are prohibited from displaying the USDA Organic Seal."

This upcoming Monday, our regional certifier, MOSA (which stands for Midwest Organic Services Association) will send an inspector to our farm. Luckily, our certifier is actually a former midwest vegetable farmer herself, so she understands our type of farming, what is needed to grow successfully, and the challenges of pests, diseases and extreme weather.

This season, Jeff is completing two inspections. One is for our farm business, Prairie Wind and another is for a neighbor that needs our help. To certify land that we do not manage ourselves, Jeff is coordinating with several other farmers, who manage this land, to ensure they are following the organic standards for seeds, fertilizers, storage and land management and filling out our proper paperwork for him. Essentially, Jeff is serving as a mini-certifier, too! Jeff volunteered to facilitate for our neighbor as he cares about the land at Prairie Crossing farm and sees all of our land working together in shared, diverse ecosystem.

Jeff will share with the inspector his records for seed orders, water testing, production (e.g., seeding, planting, fertility, weeding, harvest, washing, packing) for our cash crops. He will also share records and details on non-cash crops land (i.e., land in cover crop or rest). Jeff will even share our communications approach from our newsletters to the farm stand signage that we are communicating in ways that meet MOSA's organic standards.
While it's a lot of work, time, effort and cost, the process makes us better farmers. We are grateful that in a food system with so many confusing and non-standardized words and labels, the word "organic" is only to be used and associated with a product when it meets rigorous standards. We hope that the organic certification process that we follow provides you with a level of comfort and trust in our work. Integrity or "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles" is not only a word but means the actions we and our team take each day must meet shared standards to grow healthy food for you.
We hope you enjoy this week's late summer farm share!
~ Jeff, Jen, Owen, Gavin, Arlet, Cleto, David, Yamany
Notes from the Farm Kitchen

Sweet corn makes a final appearance in shares this week to celebrate the delicious seasonal harvest. The sweet corn in this week's CSA shares comes from a nearby farm, Didier Farm, located in Prairie View, IL. While their sweet corn is not organic, it is local, sweet and delicious.

In addition to white peaches, this week's fruit shares include a variety of donut peaches called Tango Peaches.  While these peaches are donut-shaped, however, they are much healthier than a donut! The Tango variety is light yellow in color, sweeter than a traditional peach with a bit of a pineapple flavor. Our boys love them for their lunches as they are easy to hold and snack on. You can use them wherever you like to use peaches: salsas, pies, jams, cobbler and beyond.
Gem Lettuces make a return this week and we love these sweet, tiny romaine heads. We're finding new uses for them including they are a nice replacement for endive leaves. Simply cut up your head, wash the individual leaves, and dress as you would an endive leaf. They are much sweeter in flavor, so you could also try experimenting with grilling, wedge salads or mini lettuce wraps.
Seasonal Recipes in the Farm Kitchen

Fresh Peach Salsa

Summer Corn and Arugula Salad

11 Ways to Use Blueberries

Tomato and Feta Galette

Baked Donut Peaches

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