Source: Fix.comHere's a link to an absolutely great article about CSAs. I've been keeping my eyes open for something like this for a long time. Jack from fix.com shared this with me, and says: "It’s our aim with this piece to get the message out there in a very visual, instructional way, about the growth and economic, social, and environmental advantages to shopping as direct-to-farmer as possible."
Here's a link to the full article: http://www.fix.com/blog/farm-to-table/
"I grew up in the city, and like most urbanites the closest I got to a farm was the produce section of the supermarket. Barring an elementary school field trip or two, we don’t often have the pleasure of shaking hands with our food producers, and doing just that would require a costly tropical trip if we’re buying bananas and papayas. Given widespread food recalls from contamination and questionable factory farming practices, it’s in our best interest to know exactly where our food comes from and how it’s produced. The easiest and most delicious way to do this is to go local. Luckily for us city folk, we have the bounty of farmers’ markets and now CSAs (community supported/shared agriculture) to bring the farm directly to our kitchen table... (READ MORE)
World War Two brought a large number of changes to our western society. One of these changes was the mass introduction of chemicals, used during the war, into our agricultural system. These changes were originally seen as a blessing to help our over-worked farmers. Since then, mainstream agriculture has continued along the road of introducing new chemicals to manage weeds, pests and crop fertility. In recent years, a radically new development has been added to the farmers' tool belt: the introduction of genetically modified crops. Along with these changes a segment of the population started to question this new way of producing food for the masses. As the years passed, this small minority has been growing. Now, more then ever, our food system and security has been questioned and the mainstream media have covered a number of concerns surrounding food issues. Sometimes, it can muddy the water a bit when terms and information are popularized without fully explaining what they mean. We've heard a lot of talk about heirloom seeds, open pollinated seeds, hybrid seeds and genetically engineered seeds. I feel like each of these could use some clarification, so I thought I'd pass along some information about each of them.
For this post, I'm making an effort to simply pass on information and leave my bias aside and remain apolitical. So, while a lot of us have our own views on things, we'll save that for another discussion.
I'll start with heirloom and open pollinated seeds. Heirloom seed varieties are usually defined as having been commonly grown during earlier periods of agriculture but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Heirloom varieties have fallen out of favour with a lot of farmers, for a number of reasons. These varieties are not well suited to travel long distances, are not as productive and may not have the uniformity required. However, many people claim that the taste of an heirloom tomato can't be beat. I've often heard that heirloom varieties taste like what your grandparents grew in their garden. Heirloom varieties have made a bit of a resurgence among small scale organic growers, but continue to be overlooked by large scale non organic agriculture. Now, to complicate things slightly, I'll introduce open pollinated seeds. Open pollination is when pollen travels from one plant to another by insects, birds, wind, or other natural mechanisms. This is the means by which most wild plants breed. One of the benefits of open pollinated plants is that seeds saved from these plants breed true, that is; their offspring will have the same traits as the original parent plants. Heirloom seeds are always open pollinated, but open pollinated seeds are not necessarily heirloom seeds.
In contrast, hybrid pollination is a type of controlled pollination or selective breeding in which the pollen comes from a different strain of the same species, to result in a desired trait. Producing hybrid seed is a little like breeding poodles, there is a bit of in-breeding going on to create the trait you're looking for. The results of hybridized seed can be higher yield, improved disease resistance, greater uniformity etc. One downfall of hybrid plants is that their seeds will not breed true. If you try to save the seed from a hybrid, the genetic result will be unknown and therefore new seed must be purchased each year. Hybrid seeds are very common in both organic and non-organic agriculture.
The last type of seed is a very recent addition, genetically modified seed. Instead of relying on controlled pollination and selective breeding to result in desired traits, genetically modified seeds rely on manipulation of DNA in a lab. In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in this species. Examples include resistance to certain pests, diseases or environmental conditions, or the production of a certain nutrient or pharmaceutical agent. New DNA may be inserted in the DNA of a plant by first isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using molecular cloning methods to generate a DNA sequence, or by synthesizing the DNA, and then inserting this into the plant. This type of breeding has caused many controversies, ethical questions and environmental concerns. Because GM crops are man made in a lab, they are eligible to be patented. As a result their propagation is controlled and saving seed without permission is an infringement of patent laws. Genetically modified crops are not allowed in organic production, but continue to have a significant presence in large scale non organic agriculture, especially among certain crops such as; corn, soybeans, cotton and potatoes.
Here at TapRoot Farms, we grow many different crops and use many different seeds. We grow heirloom tomatoes and potatoes and many different open pollinated and hybrid crops. However, we do not grow any genetically modified crops and we never have. We're happy that there's been a few of you asking lately about this, and hope to both clear this up, provide some more information, and answer your questions. It's so great to see people aware of the current issues in food production. Keep asking those questions: it's one of the benefits and privileges of knowing where your food comes from!