Thursday, October 20, 2016

Don't Panic, We're Organic!

Grow Organic

Another year, a new organic certificate and inspection passed with flying colors and no changes needed. It feels good to be an organic producer.

At Alternative Roots Farm we believe that the right way to grow produce for our community is to grow organic. We never questioned this. There are arguments we hear, floating around the farming community, against this step, but they just aren't convincing to us to skip something so vital. The organic label is assurance to our customers that there are no synthetic chemicals on the food they are eating, we are caring for our land with organic management (crop rotation, organic matter, wildlife habitat) and no GMO crops are grown.

It is the only label that has solid, regulatory weight behind it that consumers can trust there are no chemicals and GMOs used. Many other claims, such as "natural" and "beyond organic," do not have any regulation for them. In a society where folks are hopping on the sustainability bandwagon, there is so much greenwashing of products it can be confusing when making purchasing decisions - organic eliminates this confusion.

ARF has been certified organic since August 2014.
Now, there are still ways organic could improve, but I feel it is a solid, trustworthy label for produce and produce products, while improvements for animal products are needed (in my opinion). When it comes to meat and eggs I would continue to use a skeptical eye and try to learn about your farmers and farms the products come from - buy local. "Access to pasture" is not the same as actually being out on pasture. With any good thing, such as a growing organic industry, there are going to be businesses that take advantage where there are profits to be made.

A Peek at the Certification Process

That brings me to the certification process behind organics. Each year, every organic operation - whether a grower, or processing facility - an organic business must work with their certification agency to apply annually for renewed certification. Then a third party, independent inspection agent makes a farm visit to verify paperwork, after which they report back to the certification agency, who reviews the report and makes a final determination of organic status. 

Certified organic by the Midwest Organic Services Association.
Paperwork and records are reviewed. Seed tags and bags and catalogs are saved for 5 years of accountability. Harvest data is checked to jive with what we are growing, to make sure folks aren't buying in and calling stuff organic that isn't. Seed to sale the inspector wants to be able to trace a product, for validity. What that looks like is our inspector, pulling out a sales receipt and having me trace that back to when and where it was harvested. There are various other paper trail details like this.

Arguments Against Organic

So, why do fellow farmer folks argue against organic? 

"The paperwork." Well, yes, there is paperwork, but in essence this is paperwork you want to do to be a good farmer, or business person, anyways. It's a little more work the first year of certification, then easy review and updating following that. 

"The Man." Yes, it is the government, and government regulations, which sometimes seem ass-backwards, but it's the way it is - deal with it. I file some paperwork, legally, federally filed paperwork that acts as a great insurance to our business and then I get to farm how I want. The government is not running my operation. I rotate crops on my schedule, plant the seeds that I want. Big Brother is never a presence on our farm.

There are other arguments, but these tend to be the main ones. I get frustrated by farms marketing as "Beyond Organic" which has no basis and confuses the organic name, confuses consumers we work so hard to educate and, frankly, is illegal. There are those that say we should not have to apply to not use chemicals, it's the conventional farmers that should apply to use chemicals (so much truth to that), but again...this is the way it is.

The hoops are worth jumping through for you, for our community, for education on real food. This isn't just about our farm, it's about our countries broken food system as well. It's as much a political statement as it is a small business decision.
Buy organic, support organic. For sustainable farms and food and future.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sponsor-A-Tree Shout Outs!

Sponsor-A-Tree Shout Out

A Huge Thank You! to our 2016 Sponsor-A-Tree supporters, who made a capital investment in our growing orchard. Later this month we will be purchasing 1 acre of land, adjacent to our home farm, where we will be expanding our organic orchard. Sponsor-A-Tree folks are a support with this investment and will be honored with a sign by their heirloom apple tree when these trees are planted out in Spring 2017.

Joan & Robby Doss
Anne & Andy Biebl
Yvonne & Lee Weber (pear)
Steve & Jessica Lindee
Kristin & Dale Anderson
Anonymous Awesome Apple Crew
Anita Prestidge & Aldean Hendrickson
Kellie & Chris Newman

2015 young apple tree planting at our home orchard.
We are deeply grateful for your investment and enthusiasm in our apple orcharding adventures!!

If you are interested in making a Sponsor-A-Tree donation, please contact us at

Mature apple tree at our off-site orchard.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Late Season Apple Updates

Jonathon apples, a delicious sweet-tart late season variety.

Late Apple Season Updates

As we move into late apples season, Apple Share members have enjoyed 6 weeks of specialty deliveries; CSA members received a pound+ of apples each week in their CSA boxes, for 8 weeks, with Apple Booster members getting an extra 2 lbs for 6 of those weeks; and farmer' market has come to a close. But it's still apple season! 

John, picking apples.
John is still picking late season apples - Jonathon, Prairie Spy and Haralson. Plus, it's apple season as long as apples can be stored for use. We are generally eating apples into January and we hope to extend that further in future years, with changes to our storage facilities and the addition of varieties of apples, many heirlooms, that are made for long-term storage.

Apples are still available by contacting us directly. ARF apples are also on shelves at several local co-ops - St. Peter Food Co-op, Natural Food Co-op (Litchfield) and Good Earth Co-op (St. Cloud), as well as the New Ulm Community Market & Co-op's Friday pop-up market.

Make sure to enjoy Minnesota's star fruit during this delicious season! Preserve apples during the season to enjoy apple butter, apple pie, dried apple rings and more all year around! Keep it local, plan ahead.

Friday, October 7, 2016

CSA Week #18

Jonathon apples this week.
The final week of CSA! It has been a great season. The boxes were abundant and diverse. We got to try new items and enjoy old favorites. This wraps up our 5th season on the farm, our 5th season of CSA and we are so grateful to all our members who have gone along for the ride - whether you have been with us for 5 seasons or if this was your first!

CSA Week #18 Newsletter ~ featuring: farm news; Fall Share information; recipes: past recipes list, garlic herb salt, butternut squash & sage soup with sage breadcrumbs, winter squash-chipotle quesadillas. 

In the Box: Celery mini bunch, German Butterball potatoes, 2 watermelon radishes, acorn squash (full shares), broccoli (full shares), carrots (half shares), Red Russian kale, 2 yellow and 3 red onions, German Extra Hardy garlic bulb, butternut squash (half shares), 1# Jonathon apples, bunch of sage, 3/4 leeks, 2 green and 1 colored sweet bell peppers.

Building the box - it's an art. I want it to be a good experience when our members open their boxes. Thought and planning goes into the packing of each box.

Layer 1

Layer 2
It's been a great season! Thank you all so much. Please fill our your member survey to help us be the best at what we do! Cheers~

Monday, October 3, 2016

CSA Week #17

CSA Week #17 • Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

CSA Week #17 Newsletter ~ featuring: farm news; fall share information; featured veggie: winter squash; recipes: Chard Stuffed or Unstuffed, No Waste Baked Potatoes, Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Butter.

Week #17 ~ Sept. 28, 2016
In the Box: yellow/green bell pepper, bunch Tokyo Bekana asian greens (half shares), 1.4# carrots, arugula-mizuna mixed salad greens, acorn squash, swiss chard (full shares), 1.5# Haralson apples, 2 yellow and 3 red onions, sage, German Extra Hardy garlic, 2.5# Nicola potatoes (half shares), basil, celery mini bunch, butternut squash, 2 watermelon radishes and 1.3# leeks.

Fall Shares Now Available!

Grab a Fall Share to keep eating local and fresh into winter, and stock up your winter pantry. Items like potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash store for months. This is a great way to pick up a little of the fall bounty Minnesota has to offer. All produce is certified organic.
Fall Shares are a mix of bountiful fall items and storage crops.
Two sizes available Full & Mini Available first-come, first served, limited quantities.
Pick up will be at the farm from 4:00-7:00 pm, Wednesday, October 26th and will be market style. Bring your own containers.

Full Fall Shares

~1/2lb garlic, 3-5lbs onions, ~10lbs potatoes, shallots, tomato-basil soup, apple butter, butternut & acorn squash, greens, 3-5lbs beets, cabbage, 2-4lbs carrots, ~2lbs leeks, table & baking apples. $80

Mini Fall Share

garlic, onions, potatoes, apple butter, winter squash, beets, leeks, greens. $25

Amounts are approximate, amounts & items may change, based on availability. Let us know if you have any questions!

How to Reserve your Fall Share

Email us at or call us at 507-439-6541.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Apples :: Haralson

Late Season • Tart • Heirloom

Haralson apples.
Late September to Early October.

A complex tart flavor and firm texture. This distinctive apple is crisp and juicy, with characteristics that make it great for fresh eating, cooking, cider and storage. It is said to make a great-tasting and perfect-textured pie. 

Developed by the University of Minnesota, 1922 - a Minnesota heirloom.

Offspring: Honeygold, Honeycrisp.

Parentage: Malinda x Wealthy.

Keeps 4-5 months in storage, while retaining good flavor.

For years Haralson was the number one apple in Minnesota. The variety tends towards biennial bearing (altering between high and low yielding years).