They Make It Easy!

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After being somewhat inactive for the last two years, due to illness, I am very happy to be back writing about life, experiences and things that mean a lot to me.  Hopefully, you all enjoy my musings and if I can use the number of visitors to my sites even during my absence, many of you do.  Today I would like to talk about one of my favorite subjects…Keep Growing Detroit!  There is something about this time of year (mid-April) where I am acutely aware of their existence and all of the good things they have done and continue to do after all of these years.  It’s kind of like Memorial Day or Independence Day where just before the holidays you might feel a little more patriotic than other days.  It’s a great feeling and where there are a lot of reasons why, there is one primary reason that validates their existence…their being…their worth, they make it easy!

Yes, they make it easy for anybody to garden.  Anybody with a dream…a desire…a plan, whatever, they make it easy!  I was at the cold-crop distribution last Thursday and I happened to witness a Keep Growing Detroit volunteer take a “senior” gardener by the hand and help her navigate the gathering of shoots and seeds.  It was obvious it was her first time and I was impressed and moved by the patience and guidance this particular volunteer gave this elderly lady.  Maybe she has had some gardening experience but her uncertainty was just enough to warrant the care and attention she received.  She couldn’t buy that type of customer service.

 

That’s not the only way they make it easy.  As a member of Keep Growing Detroit I can participate in…

 

  • Community Garden Workdays
  • Learn & Earn Workshops
  • Gardening/Cooking Classes & Tours
  • Exclusive Grown In Detroit Events & Programs
  • Garden Resource Program Events and Plant Distribution (Seeds; Cold Weather Crops; Hot Weather Crops; Fall Crops)

 

What does it cost to partake in all of this fun?  An easy $10 for a family garden or $20 for a community or school garden.  To be a full participating member you must live in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park.  Even if you don’t live in Detroit you can use Keep Growing Detroit as your vehicle for volunteering in Detroit.  People come from all over the metro area to help make Detroit’s urban farming initiative into one of the most recognized programs in the country. And that’s not easy to do since there are hundreds of communities and programs nationwide that foster urban agriculture activities.  Don’t have time to volunteer?  Donations are always welcome!!!

 

There are over 1400 gardens in the tri-cities area and I think that the people at Keep Growing Detroit know each and every one of us.  I would love to see their LinkedIn page…talk about a network.  These guys are so involved…so in touch with the city, their efforts make it easy (there’s that phrase again) for us to just be gardeners.  They are on the side of urban agriculturists who include beekeepers, chicken farmers, and goat or sheepherders.  From teaching to selling Keep Growing Detroit has been making it easy for over a decade and it looks like it will keep going and growing in Detroit for a long time.

 

For more information on Keep Growing Detroit contact them at (313) 757-2635 or keepgrowingdetroit@gmail.com.

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All Good (?) Things Come To An End!

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It’s Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and I am enjoying fresh vegetables from my organic garden.  Just yesterday I cooked collard greens, boiled potatoes, cornbread with a side of slice tomatoes for my mom.  The greens and the tomatoes were from my garden.  After that super hot and drought-like summer, I am totally amazed that there is anything out there, let alone it being edible.  In addition to the greens and tomatoes, I’ve got yellow squash, peppers, and tomatillos “on the bush” too, so to speak.  This is in spite of the pronounced chill in the air that we’ve had since the middle of September, with a few exceptions.

I know I said I wasn’t going to keep track of what I harvested but I decided to do it anyway.  I am a fool in love when it comes to gardening and it didn’t make sense to abandon the process for one year just because this summer didn’t turn out as well as the year before.  But all things considered, it wasn’t a bad year…it was a good year and if things had been slightly different I would have had a great yield.  At the end of the day my yield was off nearly 45% from the previous year

Vegetable                                                 2011                2012                Diff +/-

 

Cabbage/Greens/Lettuces/               31.5 lbs.        21.3 lbs.          -10.2 

Broccoli

 

Beans (all varieties)                            16.3 lbs.         2 .4 lbs.          -13.9

 

Peppers (all varieties)                        19.75 lbs.      12.53 lbs.      -7.22

 

Tomatoes (all varieties)                      121.47 lbs.   66.54 lbs.     -54.93

 

Tomatillos                                                9.01 lbs          4.84 lbs.         -4.17

 

Zucchini/Squash/Cucumber               22.5 lbs        22.63 lbs.     +0.13

 

Onions/Shallots                                      9.0 lbs.        .25 lbs.             -7.75

 

Herbs                                                        1.0 lbs           0.625              -0.375

 

Totals                                                      230.53 lbs       132.16 lbs.      -98.37

 

Surprised?  Yeah, so am I!  I am surprised that it did so well. There are some very unique things going on which I should explain so that the numbers make more sense to you.  For example…

  1. I didn’t plant as many tomatillo (2 vs. 4), pepper (24 vs. 51) or tomato plants (34 vs. 34, of which only 14 were not cherry/small tomatoes vs. 5 in 2011) as I did in 2011.
  2. I didn’t plant onions.
  3. My zucchini yield was off this year but the yellow squash made up the difference.  Cucumber yield was about the same or slightly more.
  4. Cabbage production was down significantly (small heads) whereas the greens and broccoli were up.  I did not plant any head lettuces just the leafy varieties.
  5. The bean output was just pitiful.  More plantings than in 2011 and far less yield, the worst ever in 6 years.
  6. 2011, I literally went crazy…planting and cramming as much into the garden as I could.  And when I ran out of room I bought pots and bins.  The goal was to not have to work as hard in my garden this year as I did in the previous year.  I think that there is a happy medium and I am confident I will find it in 2013.
  7. I hand-watered the garden. I didn’t want to water the weeds (which, thankfully I didn’t have many)!   I hand-watered in 2011 too, but it got to a point that I had to use the hose.  2012, though I had fewer plants they needed just as much attention.  Look at the number of plants (see point #1) I had in both years.  Hand watering takes time!  I felt like I was working myself like my mother likes to work my “government mule” ass.  I overworked myself in 2011 and wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2012…and yet I watered AND WATERED!  I was averaging between 90 – 100 minutes every 2 or 3 days through the middle of August.  Hot days took longer.  The plants looked like they were doing great even with the heatwave, but with the notable exception of the tomatillo plants, which unexpectedly grew to nearly seven feet tall, they were all rather spindly and ultimately kind of weak looking.  But like I said, the numbers were there but the size and weight wasn’t.

In spite of the overall low production, I did have a spell there, for a while, where my dining room table was loaded with vegetables of all kinds. There was more room out of the refrigerator than in so anything that didn’t have to be refrigerated right away stayed out.  My plan was to can and freeze as usual, but there was an insufficient amount of the tomatoes I wanted to can and not enough beans to do a proper freezing project with.  When I did manage to freeze something it actually seemed like it was a lot but in reality I spent only three days in the kitchen, which I intentionally spread out over the days.

I did eat more of the veggies this time.  Since preserving them wasn’t going to work, I took the time to enjoy my garden in the moment…most of the time the veggies were picked that very day.  I had something substantial from the garden every two to three days.  I highly recommend the GRP (Garden Resource Program) Salad Mix of lettuces and their All Greens Mix (great for stir-frys).  I got compliments from everybody that I shared produce with and in spite of my low yield I still shared a lot.  Rotating at the top of the popularity list were the Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, Collard Greens, and the Cubanelle, Sweet Banana and Yellow Hot Peppers.  I had never tried to grow the Cherokee tomato variety nor had I ever had a Cubanelle pepper.  The peppers grew to a very nice size and the tomatoes had a very unique and sweet taste.  Anybody living in Detroit that owns or plans to start a garden should check out the Garden Resource Program at www.detroitagriculture.net.  It’s a great program and resource.

Another pleasant surprise was the shallots!  I didn’t think that I grew that many (20 oz.) but I have been using them about once a week since they were harvested at the end of July.  This was also the first year that my green bell peppers grew to size.  I only had 6 (out of 8) plants that actually grew some and they were beautiful.  I ate these while I froze the Cubanelle and the Sweet Banana peppers.  I was afraid to attempt to let them mature to red because I thought I was pushing my luck with the squirrels.  But, ultimately, I had nothing to worry about.

I had fewer problems with the squirrels due to the inflatable snakes I had in the garden.  In fact, I didn’t lose one pepper to the squirrels and at the worst I probably lost only about 4…maybe 5 tomatoes before the “I didn’t care” mentality took hold (October 20th).  Even now, the squirrels avoid going into the garden…hahahaha!  The garden was also fenced all around, so I didn’t have problems with rabbits either.  The sad thing was that my birds didn’t stop by and visit.  I always thought that the birds came from miles and miles away and I really enjoyed the different colors they brought to my window throughout the day.  But the snakes kept them away too.  Oh well, I guess it was the appropriate trade off, because there is a particular type of black bird that would come into my garden en masse and they would be as destructive as the squirrels.  They loved to attack any green shoot coming out of the ground and fight amongst the squashes.  But this, the year of the snakes, meant no birds…ces’t la vie!

So all in all, I enjoyed this year’s garden very much and I am sorry to see it end.  As I conclude this blog on Monday, Nov. 5th, I am proud to say that I got the most out of it I could.  Imagine picking hot and sweet peppers and tomatillos as late as Nov. 4th.  I had tomatoes out there were still ripening too!  They were small but not much smaller than the heat stricken tomatoes I had in the summer.  And I will concede that they didn’t taste as good either, but still…man…it’s “freakin” November and I was pulling healthy productive plants out of the ground.  What a summer (climate change and all) and what a fall…all good things (?) do come to an end!

P.S. I can’t wait until next year!  I have already planted nearly 60 cloves of garlic of four different varieties (Music, Japanese, Kilarney Red and Chesnok Red) in two 20 ft. long rows.

Thanks to John Adams, Jenni Littsey, and the Garden Resource Program for helping to make this year’s garden fun!

Green Thumb? Maybe…Maybe Not!

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This year has proven to be a real challenge for gardeners and farmers around the world.  Though there are a lot of people (mainly politicians) that want to discredit all notions of global warming there are a lot of signs or indications, whether it be heavy snowfalls, severe rainstorms or the consistent high heat  and drought-like conditions, that point in that direction.  You’d have to live on another planet not to be aware of the impact the climate has had on cost of living now and perhaps into the future.  Fruits and vegetables are going to cost more this year.  Our feed crops for animal consumption have been hit pretty hard too.  Creating a domino effect that virtually ensures that the meat we eat, beef, poultry and pork, will cost more.

If you have been watching our local and national newscast, you have seen how the high temperatures of this summer have affected the crop production in many of our key states.  The corn in Indiana is about half the size it should be.  Wheat production in many of the plain states is way off.  High heat and the lack of rain has been a recipe for disaster.  And what is truly amazing is that despite or inspite of the extreme weather conditions, weeds…and I do mean WEEDS,  continue to grow and do very well.  The lack of rain or watering has not stop the weeds from “uglying” up our lawns, gardens or indoubtedly our farms.   Maybe weeds will be the crop of the future.

Many of my friends have asked how I and my garden are dealing with the summer of 2012, so I have quite a few pictures I would like to share with you all that show how I am handling things.  I must admit my green thumb feels like it’s only a green pinky.  I do not believe I will have the same production from my 2012 garden that I got from the 2011 effort.  Tomatoes are smaller, bean production is off and some things like carrots never sprouted.  Afraid that my zucchini and squashes were parched, I probably over watered them.  Even plants, like peppers, that typically enjoy hot weather conditions are undersized.  My expectations are so low as of now, I am seriously considering putting away my scale (courtesy of the Garden Resource Program) for the summer.  Gardening is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work too.  I have worked harder to have fun  this year than any previous year.  And even with all of my whining and complaining I still believe it will be worth it.

Stage One – June

I am off to a good start…

Check out that soil!

New fencing to keep out the rabbits and the squirrels…hahaha!

So much promise…so much to look forward to!

Stage Two – The Beginning of July

The first week of July…Nice!

After this, virtually no rain for the rest of the month!

Stage Three-The End of July

Cucumbers…looking good!

Yellow Wax Beans

Now, I know you are all looking at this and saying what in the H*** is he talking about?  Well, there are times when even I look at it and ask myself the same thing.  But don’t let the green grass fool you.  It is brutal out there…absolutely brutal.  Some plants are doing very well and some are well below normal expectations.  I have re-planted beans three times.  My pole beans are a total disaster.  The yield from my zucchini and squash, as previously mentioned, is so low it is almost disgraceful.  I do have to accept the fact that somethings, especially the weather, are totally out of my control.  Oh, but I will more than make do though.  Again, as previously noted, my lettuces and greens are doing exceptionally well.  It still looks like I will get a lot from my Yellow Wax Beans.  All varieties of my tomatoes will ultimately do well…they just won’t be as large or as plentiful as they have been in the past.  My peppers, all types, will have a banner year.  So I will survive, but the price for surviving has gone up…way up.  Because to get what I have, I have had to work twice as hard this year to get even close to the output of previous years.  That’s right…twice as hard!

Is it worth it?  Easy answer…”Yes it is!”  Since I preserve a lot of what I grow, I will appreciate my efforts whenever I go to my freezer and pull something out that I grew this summer.  Plus, the most significant benefit will be the money saved.  A quick visit to my local supermarket has already proven that too.  Prices are already starting to rise while the quality, unfortunately, is going down.  Growing my own is still the best way…the most cost efficient way to eat fresh, quality food on a daily basis.  Without a doubt it has been a struggle this year…a real test of my green thumb (and the rest of my fingers).   But guess what?  I can’t wait until next year.

Related articles on this site…

  1. Compost Tea…A Most Beneficial Brew!
  2. I Thought That All Dandelions Were Good For Was Making Wine!
  3. 10 Things That Successful Gardeners Know or Do!

Are you having problems with your garden this year?  Drop me a line…misery loves company!  Also, the people at the Greening of Detroit are a good resource for dealing with problems you might have with your garden.  Contact Lindsay Pielack (313) 285-2300 or go to www.detroitagriculture.net.

It’s A Bloomin’ Garden!

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Going Home

Are you familiar with this piece of music?  It is probably the most recognized theme in classical music.  The theme is called “Largo” and it is a movement in The Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” by Anton Dvorak.  Most musicians know that it was composed during his visit to the United States back in 1893.  It is often used to evoke the splendor of farmlands throughout our country and is one that I think of when I gaze out my office window to look at my garden almost every morning.

As they say, nothing could be finer than to look out my window and see what is happening in the garden.  It’s not quite the middle of summer and round about now there are plenty of people, home-gardeners, community gardeners and farmers that are taking stock as to where they are and what they have to do to have a successful gardening effort.  2011 has brought forth a few challenges and as gardeners or as farmers we have just had to deal with it…deal with whatever good old Mother Nature has thrown our way.  The strong do survive!  And to throw another cliché your way…”that what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger” or in this case “smarter” will be a fact of life for us “sodbusters” committed to a productive harvest from our gardens.

With the wet spring we had, farmers/gardeners across the Midwest, experienced considerable delays in getting their seeds in and their crops started.   As noted on this site, in a previous blog, I was able to get my peas in the ground in mid-April and plants (courtesy of the Greening of Detroit) like lettuces, cabbages, greens and broccoli in by the second week of May.  I wasn’t able to get everything else in the ground until after the Memorial Day weekend.  With the timing off for everybody, there was considerable doubt here and everywhere that “corn would be knee-high by the fourth of July”.

  Pac Choi/Collared Greens/Cabbage

I then had to establish an effective regimen that would at the very least position me to have a decent yield.  So I weeded (easy work), I composted (heavy work) and I planted, re-planted and planted again (3 succession plantings of bush and pole beans) until everything was in.

 Contender Beans

Provider Beans and Romaine Lettuce

Pole Beans

All I needed at the point of getting the garden completely in was a little cooperation in the weather department.  Now that we were definitely in the warm to hot cycle of the calendar, I needed rain and plenty of it.  If only it would continue to rain somewhat like it had throughout the spring I would be all right, but alack and alas it did not.  Now I am sure that if you were to look it up, our rain days were not too far off from last year or as I recall one of the TV weathercasters state, “we are down just a few inches from the near record amounts of the previous months”.  But the reality is that, although we may have gotten rain, it didn’t happen when and as often as it was projected, wanted or needed.

All along, my plan was to water the garden by hand as often as possible and with my rain projections (fueled by daily weather reports) I didn’t think I would have to do too much of that.  What I was saving by growing my own produce, I didn’t want to “water” away.  Plus, hand watering is no walk in the park.  Especially with a garden as big as mine and with the number of plants that have been planted.  In addition to what is in the ground I have a variety of plants in pots.

Peppers and Basil in pots

Potted Roma Tomatoes

Beyond what you see in the pictures above, I have a total of 21 plants in pots.  Ranging from Ancho/Poblano Peppers, Wisconsin Hot Peppers, Cayenne Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, two types of Basil, Chives, Sage, Tarragon and several varieties of Tomatoes (including Brandywine, German and Italian Heirlooms).

I still hand water but it takes a little more than 1 hour to directly water these many plants (in-ground/pots) by hand.  So far this year, I have turned the hose on only three times to water the full garden.

 Peas and Onions

 Tomatillos and Peppers

 Row of Tomato Plants

As it stands now, this is what I have in my garden:

(p = pots)

 

(26)  Tomato Plants

  • Giant Delicious
  • Italian Beefsteak
  • Big Beef
  • Moskvich
  • Green Zebra
  • June Flame (Jaune Slamme)
  • Brandywine (p)
  • German Heirloom (p)
  • Italian Heirloom (p)
  • Round Roma (p)
  • Black Cherry

 

(4)  Toma Verde Tomatillos

 

(27)  Pepper Plants

  • Bonnie Green Bell Peppers
  • Bonnie Sweet Red Bell Peppers
  • Bonnie Sweet Yellow Bell Peppers
  • Generic Large Yellow Bell Peppers
  • Yankee Bell Peppers
  • Black Hungarian Peppers (p)
  • Early Jalapeno Peppers (p)
  • Marconi Sweet Red Peppers
  • Long Red Narrow Cayenne Peppers (p)
  • Wisconsin Peppers (p)
  • Ancho/Poblano Peppers (p)

 

(242) Bean Plants

  • Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
  • Contender Bush Beans
  • Provider Bush Beans
  • Cherokee Yellow Wax Beans

 

(66)  Pea Plants

  • “Spring” Sugar Snap Peas
  • “Cascadia” Snap Peas

 

(150) Onion Sets

  • Bonnie Dry Yellow Onions
  • Bonnie Sweet Yellow Onions
  • Bonnie Red Onions

 

(48)  Carrots

  • 2 x 4 Giant (p)
  • Danvers Half Long (p)
  • Solar Yellow (p)

 

(16)  Squash/Zucchini Plants

  • Cocozelle Zucchini
  • Round Zucchini
  • “Saffron” Yellow Squash

 

(14)  Marketmore Cucumber Plants

 

(15)  Heads of Lettuce

  • Romaine
  • Black Seeded Simpson
  • Mesclun Lettuce Mix (p)

 

(13)  Heads of Cabbage

  • Red Express Cabbage
  • “Shuko” Pac Choi
  • “Lascinato OG” Kale

 

(3)  Heads of Champion Collard Greens

 

(5)  Broccoli Plants

  • Arcadia

 

(6)  Herb Plants

  • Genovese Basil (p)
  • Chives (p)
  • Tarragon (p)
  • Thyme (p)
  • Sage (p)
  • Gigante d’Italia Parsley (p)

 “Provider” Bush Beans (front), Peppers and Tomatoes

 

 Full Garden South View

Lookin’ Good…don’t you think!  

I would love to know how your gardens are doing.  If you would like to tell your story or post some pictures, feel free to contact me here or by email at littsey.arthur@sbcglobal.net.

 

 

Managing Pests and Diseases the Organic Way

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Once you have started your garden outdoors one of your major concerns will be how to deal with pests and diseases safely and organically.  Yes, you can always buy a spray or something that will work to prohibit most insect problems or infestations but in doing so you may be adding chemicals to the food that you eat.  There are some organic solutions sold commercially, you may have to look a little harder to find them and you may have to apply them a little more frequently to address your problem.

Through my membership in the Garden Resource Program, I have received some very intelligent information as for how you can deal with with pests and  diseases that might attack your garden.  So of the most common pests and diseases are aphids, imported cabbage worms and loopers, flea and cucumber beetles and you will find them discussed in the attached pdfs.  As well as preventive measures like crop rotation, crop diversity, planting techniques, tools and other methods.   Of course your first line of defense is a clean, weed free garden.  By keeping it clean you don’t give the pests a haven to breed and attack tender plants as the begin to grow. 

Thanks to the Greening of Detroit and to the author of this information, Jeremy Moghtader – MSU Student Organic Farm 2008

MANAGING PESTS AND DISEASES THE ORGANIC WAY 1

MANAGING PESTS AND DISEASES THE ORGANIC WAY 2

Got a question about gardening?  Feel free to ask it here or send me an email for a personal response at littsey.arthur@sbcglobal.net.

The Benefits of Organic Food – Update March 29, 2011

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Updated March 29, 2011 to add another voice to the discussion. See link to the article below: Are Fruits and Vegetables Getting Less Nutritious?

 

Last Memorial Day I was showing a friend my garden and she asked if there was anything that she could sample.  At the time the only thing that was ready were my radishes.  So I pulled one out of the ground for her, rinsed it off and gave it to her.  She bit into it and the expression on her face was sheer bliss!  She admitted that this was the very first time that she had ever had a vegetable right from the ground and the taste was fabulous.  It tasted far superior to the produce that she typically buys at her local supermarket.

 

Today, I got a question from a follower that asked if the soil in our community gardens was tested for toxins and chemicals, because she was concerned if the food was fit for human consumption.  Of course, I was able to assure her that it was tested and that we have a fine support system that is provided by our own Michigan State University.

  

  

To me, these two separate events are somewhat related because they create a forum on the topic of the health care benefits of organically grown food vs. “conventional” food that is readily available almost everywhere.

 

A growing number of consumers and especially those dealing with chronic illness are switching to organic food.  My garden is 100% organic and because of my diabetes and other health concerns, I believe that it is better for me.  There have been many discussions on the topic at several levels and food agencies around the world universally claim that there is no evidence of a nutritional difference.  I came upon an article by Shane Heaton (Organic Food News Quarterly) that more than suggests that a “more careful and thorough review of the science comparing organic and non-organic food reveals that, collectively, the available evidence does indeed support the consumer belief and claims by the organic industry that their food is safer, more nutritious, and better for you than non-organic food”.

  

 

  

Do organic crops, on average contain higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C, and antioxidant phytonutrients?

 

  

Official food consumption tables, including data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture, reveal that since the 1940s the mineral levels in fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy have declined substantially in conventional foods.  Combine this with earlier (pre-ripened) picking, longer storage, and more processing of crops, it should not be surprising that we may be getting fewer nutrients in our food than we were 60 years ago.

  

 

  

The artificial fertilization associated with conventional crops produces lush growth by swelling produce with more water.  On a pound-for-pound basis, organic food has more “dry matter” (i.e. food).  Partly because of this (and for other reasons too), there are higher levels of nutrients in organic produce.  By eating organic food it may be easier to achieve the recommended daily allowances for certain nutrients that you may not get otherwise.

We can expect also that phytonutrients, many of which are antioxidants involved in the plant’s own defense system, will be higher in organic produce because crops rely more on their own defenses in the absence of regular applications of chemical pesticides.  Higher levels have so far been found of lycopene in organic tomatoes, polyphenois in organic potatoes, flavonols in organic apples, and resveratrol in organic red wines.  At the time Mr. Heaton’s article was published a recent review of the subject estimated that organic produce will tend to contain 10% to 50% higher phytonutrients than conventional produce.

What about pesticide residue?

It is regularly claimed by the mainstream food industry that pesticide residues in foods are known to be safe on the basis of total diet surveys that supposedly find the levels of pesticide residues in our foods to be very low and within acceptable safety limits.  But monitoring programs consistently show that around one in three non-organic food examples tested contains a variety of pesticide residues, with far lower levels being found in and on organic produce.  Conventional food proponents also claim that rigorous safety assessments show that pesticide residues are no threat to human health.  Yet consumers intuitively know this is false.

  

 

Many pesticide-residue safety levels are set for individual pesticides, but many samples of fresh produce carry multiple pesticide residues.  Rules often do not take into account the “cocktail effect” of combinations of pesticides in and on foods.  Research is emerging confirming the potential for such synergistic increases in toxicity of up to 100-fold, resulting in reproductive, immune and nervous system effects not expected from individual compounds acting alone.

 

 How does this affect our children?

Children’s immature and developing organs, brains and detoxification and immune systems, plus their larger intake of food per kilo of body weight, combine to make them even more susceptible to toxins than adults.  American toddlers eating mostly organic foods have been found to have less than one sixth the pesticide residues in their urine compared to children eating conventional foods, lowering their exposure from above to below recognized safety levels.

 

The 1998 landmark study, written by Elizabeth Gillette and published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” showed how a combination of low-level environmental, household and dietary exposures caused subtle yet measurable developmental deficits in children.  The study found significant differences between two groups in both mental and motor abilities (with the children who were exposed to pesticides scoring at a much lower level), as well as an increase in aggressive behavior. 

 

And if you are a breast-feeding mother, you should know that a 1995 Australian study of breast milk found that infants are regularly exposed to several pesticides at levels greater than maximum recommended exposures.  In Canada, a study showed a direct correlation  has been observed between pesticide contamination of breast milk and the increased risk of otitis media (middle ear infection) in Inuit infants.

 

What about food additives?

 

Mr. Heaton’s article points out that artificial colorings and preservatives in food and drink are thought to contribute to hyperactivity in pre-school children, and while many still contest this issue, a study done at that time in the United Kingdom found that the proportion of hyperactive children was halved when additives were removed from their diets.  Many additives – such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavorings, MSG, hydrogenated fat, and phosphoric acid – are prohibited in organic food production.

 

So will you be healthier if you eat organic food?

 

  

A recent review of controlled animal feeding trials found significant improvements in the health of animals given organic feed and concluded:

 

“Reproductive health (and) incidence and recovery from illness are sensitive measures of health status and should be given appropriate weight.  Taking all of this into account, the available data are very strong with regard to the health benefits of organic feed and food.”

 

Similar tests with humans are problematic, though evidence is emerging here too!  An early observational study revealed that boarding-school students eating predominately organically for three years experienced a “very marked decline” in colds and influenza, more rapid convalescence, excellent health generally, fewer sports injuries, a greater resilience to fractures and sprains, clear and healthy skin, and improved dental health.

 

Summing it up!

 

  

So is organic food better for you?  In my opinion, as well as the author Mr. Heaton, the answer is yes.  Decreasing one’s toxin burden and increasing one’s intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can have a significant impact on health, especially when trying to improve or restore health.

  

 

Personally, since I have been growing organically and preserving the food for consumption during the winter months, I have never felt better.  Like the studies suggest, I have fewer colds and in general, fewer health issues to contend with. Eating organic is not the “silver bullet” though.  I have to make sure that I also get plenty of exercise, rest and maintain a healthy diet too.  I limit the amount of red meat that I consume and watch my daily sodium level.  I consciously try to make healthy choices throughout the day.

 

Yes, growing my own makes it somewhat easy for me to accomplish this, but non-growers can do it too.  First you have to move away from the notion that eating “smart” has to cost more.  Studies have shown that the average family spends five times more on junk food, take-out food, alcohol, and tobacco than on fruits and vegetables.  To make healthier choices they need encouragement and education (see my blog “Are You Fighting For Your Children’s Future” 2/14/2011).

 

The fact is that organic food is not a luxury.  It’s how food’s supposed to be, and a valuable part of any regimen intended to maintain, improve, or restore health

  

Update: Are Fruits and Vegetables Getting Less Nutritious?  (courtesy of Nutrition Diva)

 Click Here To Read the Article

 

 

For more information on organic food and organic gardening please go to the following websites:

Michigan State University    http://www.css.msu.edu./SPNL/

Grinning Planet   www.grinningplanet.com

National Home Gardening Club   www.gardeningclub.com

Organic Gardening  www.organicgardening.com

Urban Farm Magazine  www.urbanfarmonline.com

Christina Pirello   “Living the Well Life”  www.christinacooks.com

The Garden Resource Program   www.DetroitAgriculture.Org.

Project Sweet Tomato   www.projectsweettomato.com

Photo Credits:  John Adams (1, 2);  Jenni-ann Littsey (3, 4, 5, 6)