Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Safe Seed Pledge

Be a responsible gardener and always look for this pledge (or something similar) when purchasing your seeds.

Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately people and communities."


The Council for Responsible Genetics


The media's labeling of things puts them into a box from which there is sometimes no escape. Sometimes this labeling doesn't even mean anything. Like when some catch phrase from television or some equally spurious source starts being used so much people stop questioning the origin or even the meaning.

Every year, yet another "think tank" (see what I mean?) comes out with an annual list of top new words or most overused words, it is always astounding to me that anyone even took the time to think about it in the first place. I know that in our modern culture there is always something new that might need a specialized description, but what is wrong with stringing together some of the old words that we have stuffed into the verbal broom closet and completely forgotten about.

In 2007, the Oxford dictionary word of the year was "locavore". While I am actually in the business of growing food for others and love the idea that more and more people are interested in what I do, I just don't like that word. It sounds pretentious to me, kind of like eating local food is something new. My grandmother lived during the time when if you didn't eat local food, you went hungry, simple as that. So, why do we need a new word (locavore) to describe something that existed for the entire history of mankind until less than 100 years ago? I don't get that at all.

And while I am on the subject, when did the market become "super"? (I got most of the following from a Wikipedia article on Supermarkets.)

The concept of a self-service grocery store was developed by Clarence Saunders. His first Piggly Wiggly store opened in Memphis, Tenn., in 1916. According to the Smithsonian, the first true supermarket in the United States was opened by a former Kroger employee, Michael J. Cullen, on August 4, 1930, inside a 6,000 square foot former garage in Jamaica, Queens, New York. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Hmmm? How about some more interesting factoids:
  • Supermarkets, especially big box stores, have made the survival of the smaller family-run farm stands and neighborhood markets increasingly difficult.

  • Supermarkets, in general, also tend to narrow the choices of fruits and vegetables by stocking only varieties with long storage lives, thus leading to medium-term extinction of the cultivation of other varieties. There are only about 80 varieties of vegetables being cultivated on factory farms in the US. 100 years ago, when everybody ate local produce, there were probably thousands because each state, region, even community that had favorites, etc. Thank goodness the interest in heirloom vegetables, fruits, etc. has kept some of these from obliteration.

  • In the US, major-brand supermarkets often demand "slotting fees" from suppliers in exchange for premium shelf space and/or better positioning (such as at eye-level, on the checkout aisle or at a shelf's "end cap"). This extra supplier cost (up to $30,000 per brand for a chain for each individual SKU) may be reflected in the cost of the products offered. Some critics have questioned the ethical and legal propriety of slotting fee payments and their effect on smaller suppliers.
So, if you aren't shopping at your local farmer's market, why not?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Unfortunately, anytime there is an economic demand for a product, impostors sometimes begin to spring up at an alarming rate. This is the situation that many small certified organic farmers are encountering with more and more regularity when trying to market their goods. At farmer's markets, roadside stands, buying clubs and other venues, there are unscrupulous growers who claim to be "almost organic" or to be using "organic methods".

Many times farmers have no real clear idea of the disservice they are doing to the concepts of organic farming when they misuse the term "organic". Many of them simply do not have access to or completely comprehend the organic standards of the National Organic Program. Some of them simply do not care.

Just because you didn't spray noxious chemical pesticides on your crops in no remote way makes you an organic grower, nor does it adhere to the organic method. This system of agriculture is a synergistic partnership between the grower, the environment, combined with a deep respect and philosophical understanding of what this partnership requires. Unfortunately, it has become a marketing scheme in the last decade, instead of the principled ideals that were originally conceived.

Part of the organic method requires the support and establishment of habitat for beneficial insects, birds and other helpful creatures. It is not about controlling nature but rather finding the balance between what nature creates and working within that creation. It requires strong faith in the perfect order of all things in nature and to work with and within the natural cycles that occur. The truest principles of organic farming are not about commerce, they are about a deep and abiding love of Mother Earth and about taking our earthly stewardship responsibilities very seriously. It's really not all about the money.


There is an exemption from certification for legitimate very small organic growers. These producers are allowed to call their products organic, provided that they meet the specifications for this exemption. Part of the onus of responsibility for these non-certified organic growers is to keep the exact same paperwork and follow the exact same rules that certitied growers use. Only then is the exemption legitimate.

Ergo, the requirements to legally label a product as organic (non-certified) by falling under this exemption category, is exactly the same as a certified grower. All they are exempt from is inspection and paying for certification, which incidentally is not expensive at all. This is another common argument for not being certified that is completely bogus...most certifiers have caps on what they can charge and the USDA offers financial assistance to help with the costs of certification.

Since the other most common argument against certification among these pseudo-organic growers is that the paperwork is too burdensome for them to bother with but that is also not true.The documentation required is, if anything, an extremely useful tool that helps a farmer track his progress and have a yearly record to refer back to when planning his growing seasons. It is no more involved that keeping track of how you are managing your business. To be successful, any well managed business must keep good records, so what it the difference?

(The link below will take you to brief outline lists some of the key points that make certification of a producer/product important to anyone who eats organic food.)

Certified versus Non-Certified


So, the only way to be certain that you are, in fact, getting what you are paying for is to ask for the grower's certification or to question their methods. It is your right to know. Organic certification is your assurance that the grower has done his or her due dilligence in order to obtain that certification. Third party certifiers for the USDA inspect farms to make sure that they are following what amounts to the strictest food growing standards in the world today. If your grower falls under the small grower's exemption, he/she should be able to explain the regulations that cover his/her operation.

And the growers are not the only ones at fault with regard to misinformation about organics. A majority of consumers don't really know exactly what they are seeking when it comes to organics and so the waters are muddied even further. Lots of consumers are really looking for fresh, local produce, not truly organic produce and this lack of distinction between two very different products feeds the cult of misinformation about organics that abounds at farmer's markets, etc.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What the Future Holds for New Moon Farm

Wow! I thought it was time to post something important to our many loyal customers and blog followers, since I know that many of you might be curious as to what is happening with Dave and myself right now, in regards to the Farm. Since many of my readers knew us during Dave's original bout with renal cancer and were so supportive at that time, it seemed that it was important to let them know that Dave is now in the fight of his life.

Back in October of 2008, a rather large tumor was discovered when it caused him to have a compression fracture of one of his lumbar vertebra. It was painful and he had extensive surgery to repair the damage but the scans he had for this event revealed that the cancer was back in several spots and he had moved into Stage IV of this dreadful disease. Treatment options are extremely limited and with rather small rates of success for the ones that do exist. But, most of them were not available at all in 2005 when he was originally diagnosed and had his kidney removed, so at least we have some small glimmer of hope for a miracle and are thankful for that.

Throughout this ordeal of the last nearly 5 years, we have never wavered from our pledge to our friends and customers to provide them with the best and healthiest food we could possible grow. Even when he could hardly stand for the pain, he insisted that crops had to get into the ground and weeds had to be hoed. This year, we struggled but with the help of many wonderful and generous volunteers, we managed to have a pretty good season. Nothing like in the past, but satisfactory anyway.

One of the other reasons I am posting this is because we mostly know many of our followers through the Farm and the Farmer's markets we have attended over the last 10 years. Some of them we have seen in recent years, but some of them not at all but the occasional email lets me know they still follow the blog and check out the website. Everybody expresses their concern but nobody ever asks the hard questions, so I thought I would answer them anyway.

Because of the seriousness of Dave's illness, there is always the possibility that we will no longer be able to operate New Moon Farm Organics. That is the reality of it. I think that a personal explanation is in order. Rumor always swirls around events that are not explained adequately and I simply do not want any misinformation about our Farm to be out there in the world. Once those kinds of things hit the air, it is hard to call them back. No matter whether there is a shred of truth or not, people sometimes choose to believe what they hear without ever checking the facts and I want them out there. (I am sure that there was plenty of speculation about why we stopped coming to Charlotte Farmer's Market, when the simple fact is that we have a much better and more lucrative market, 15 minutes from the Farm. Simple as that.) If, and I do stress IF, we are no longer able to continue farming, it will be the absolute last resort we have and it will be because of Dave's health. No other reason.

What 2010 holds is anybody's guess but we plan on pressing ahead with doing the thing we love best....growing things and going to our farmer's market. We are looking to that end for 2010, also and will be making some adjustments to how we do things to accommodate the situation. I am neither as strong and agile or as intuitive about growing things as Dave, but I can hold my own. I am looking forward to getting into a couple of new areas, which we have not been able squeeze in for the last few years. By reducing the size of our CSA to a manageable number and time frame, I foresee that it will be a good year in 2010. The first segment of CSA will be just for spring and I am looking forward to meeting a whole new crop of families to provide with awesome food! There are a couple of dedicated folks that have expressed an interest in helping out for the entire season next year and I hope that comes to fruition. And we will again be offering our "Hands Across the Table" work for food program in 2010.

Blessings and gratitude to each and every one of our customers. You have all been a part of our success over the last 10 years and we want everyone to know how much we have appreciated all the support we received over the years. Come see us at the Davidson Farmer's Market this summer. We'd love to see you!

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas to all!

Suzanne and Dave
New Moon Farm Organics

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wrote this a while back and never published it...may still be relevant

The title of this blog is "Simply Sustainable - My Life on an Organic Farm". It mostly talks about the ups and downs of living and working as a farmer. But I wasn't always a farmer. In fact, my previous incarnation was about as far from farmer as you can get. I worked in the financial services industry for over 25 years....securities and commodity brokerage, to be specific.

My epiphany that maybe that industry wasn't where I needed to be came to me back in 1992 and it took me two years to shake myself loose from it and "retire" from my long career there. I have never looked back, although sometimes I do miss the money. Of course, that only lasts for about 30 seconds because my old life always flashes before my eyes and brings me back to reality because the truth of it is that I am not sure that I would have survived another year in that business, much less the 15 years since my departure.

That previous life does, however, give me a unique perspective on the present state of the economy, the stock market and the rest of the world. It gave the the courage to change things in my life and not to accept the status quo. Purposely, I have distanced myself from the reality that most people live in daily (9 to 5 job, big mortgage payment, credit card debt, etc.). It may seem that I gave up a lot, by today's standards of success, to get to the place I am in my present life. The money, the house, the car, the travel abroad...none of it really ended up meaning much after all, once it was gone. For a while, it was kind of like an out of body experience, but when I settled back down to earth, it was all good. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for the opportunities I had to visit other places in the world. I am glad that I had the experience of living the so-called "good life", because it gave me a reference point. I think of the life that I live now as the "sweet life" and so much better than good.

Like anybody else, my life is far from perfect. But it is what makes me happy and makes my life relevant. I have truly never been happier, in my adult life. My work has meaning to me and I know that I am doing something good for myself, for other people and for my little corner of the world.

Of course, I would not be honest if I didn't give a lot of credit to the people around me who have supported and loved me no matter how radical or strange my choices may have seemed to them. And I certainly could not have reached this level of satisfaction in my life without having my best friend by my side every step of the way. Sometimes, there are people who come into you life that have such a profound effect. If you have the wisdom and openess to accept what they bring to you, it can change your life forever.

I don't want to sound cliche, because I truly believe what I am about to say, but there is no other way to say it. Opening yourself up to the endless possibilities of the Universe is the most important step anyone can take to having their best life ever. We are only given one life at a time to live, so make this one count. In the end, it really is all about the journey.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Incredible Photography to See

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I am nutty about my beneficial insects and reluctantly enamored of even the not so beneficial ones. As I am out in the field, I get to observe up close, a tiny universe that many people never get to see. The life and activity in, under, around and between growing plants is a wonder to behold and I am in awe of it. Getting down and dirty has a whole different meaning for me that lots of folks although once in a while, I find someone who shares my wonderment.

This photo gallery (link follows), which I ran across this morning looking for something else, belongs to an epic talent. His pictures show the incredible beauty of these humble creatures that we most often take for granted. ( Yes, we all know that butterflies are beautiful but then they were always showoffs.) These pictures are sublime in their power. Take a look and you'll see what I mean.

If you click on the individual thumbnails, there is commentary and more pictures that follow each one.