Fresh Facts: Dirt is the Foundation of Organic Farming

By October 31, 2013Newsletter

Volume 7, Week 9, October 25-26, 2013

ATTENTION ! WARNING : Those of you who have been with us a while know when you see the above heading that it must be Hachiya persimmon week. If you’re a newbie though: DON’T EAT THE HACHIYA PERSIMMONS WHILE THEY ARE STILL HARD!!!

These wonderful Japanese persimmons will make anything you bake moist and delicious but that’s after they soften up. If you bite into them hard—like I’m sure somebody out there did—hopefully your spouse is nearby because your lips have now assumed the perfect kissing position. I like to tell of the two mischievous boys (if you’ve heard it, just indulge the old guy for a second) who snuck into church one Saturday night and replaced all the communion wine with green persimmon juice. At the close of the service, the entire congregation stood and whistled the benediction.

We have a large Japanese population here in Kingsburg so lots of folks have a Hachiya tree in their backyard. Persimmon cookies are a staple of holiday fare, and racks of traditional drying kaki—the Japanese word for persimmon—still lean against the south side of houses and barns in the day and are taken in at night. For you guys, you can either leave ’em on the counter till they completely soften, or put ’em in a Ziploc and throw ’em in the freezer till you’re ready to bake. When they thaw, they’ll be perfect and you’ll be rewarded with wonderful cookies or bread, or my mom makes great persimmon waffles. If you’d like to do a lot of holiday baking, we’ve got cosmetically challenged (you’re gonna pulp ’em anyway so who cares what they look like) for dirt cheap; enjoy!

Speaking of dirt, it’s the foundation of organic farming. Building the microbiology of our soil becomes the main focus of organic farmers: minerals, compost, and microbes functioning in harmony to fill your weekly box. It’s a never-ending wonder how it all works but we know that the right conditions produce consistent results. And just like it takes three years above ground to restore the native vegetation that had been killed off by herbicides, that’s about how long it takes to replace the lazy, chemical-dependent microbes in conventional soil with the thriving, interdependent microbes our organic crops need.

We don’t feed the crop; we feed the microbes that feed the crop. It’s an audible click that happens in the mind of a new organic farmer as he moves from a reactive to a proactive mindset in all things. The transition looks like this: A new organic farmer will find a crop destroying pest and call me up to ask what he can use organically to kill it and usually I have to say, “Not much.” You needed to proactively be preventing the problem a month ago. Or his crop looks weak and he wants to give it a quick boost. Sorry, that opportunity passed three months ago.

A conventional farmer must be in tune with his crop, making sure it has what it needs to thrive. An organic farmer must stay in tune with his crop,anticipating what it’s going to need to thrive, and often, tuition is paid on this year’s crop to learn what to do next time; it’s never boring, always challenging. Similarly, when we don’t feel good, conventionally we go to a doctor and ask for a chemical to “fix” it. Organically, we would ask proactively, “What should I be doing today that will keep me thriving until I’m 120?” The former is unsustainable and costly, the latter is just plain common sense.




 ~Vernon Peterson

Author AHO Kitchen Team

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