CSA 2019 – Registration is open!

We are now accepting 2019 CSA memberships!  Sign up now to receive 21 weeks of local, delicious, organic produce straight from our farm to your table.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a grassroots movement to bring consumers into a closer relationship to their food producers. Also, by purchasing your CSA share now during the winter or even in early spring, you’ll give our farm more of an income during the winter months when produce is sparse, which helps us to pay for seeds, soil, and supplies for the coming year. Our gratitude to you for this support is beyond words. 💗 We’ll do our best to showcase our wide variety of incredible produce in each box during the CSA season to make it worth your while. 

We look forward to sharing this next season of organic bounty with you!

Sign up here:  https://www.gatheringtogetherfarm.com/csa-registration

Ode to the Beetle in Your Salad

Diversity as an Organic Pest Control

We have all had the experience of finding the occasional beetle in a salad or a slug in a head of cabbage. When we encounter such a thing, we have to decide how we feel about it. But it’s hard to know what to think, and there is so much more to think about beyond what meets the eye.

On occasion we’ll get a call from a chef who bought our produce saying that an upset customer found a bug in their salad. We thought it was important to tell our customer base more about the truth behind that bug in the salad mix, and why it is actually something to make you feel better about your food rather than worse.

So why would anyone feel good about finding a bug in their salad? There are three main reasons why this would be the case, which I’ll get to in a bit. But first, it is essential to understand the concept of the microbiome. The microbiome is the ecosystem of non-human lifeforms that exists in your digestive system to regulate your digestive and mental health. Having a diverse microbiome is a healthy microbiome. This is because a diversity of microbes can protect a diversity of attacks on your health. A small amount of “bad” microbes cannot take hold and create an infection because they have to compete for space and resources with the diversity of beneficial microbes present. The same is true of the ecosystem outside our bodies. A diverse ecosystem is a health ecosystem. When a farm’s ecosystem has a diversity of bugs present, it is harder for one bug to become a major infestation.

The first reason why a bug in your salad is a good thing is that we do not use any broad-spectrum pesticides. Broad spectrum pesticides eliminate all forms of bug life within a certain category, whether they’re beneficial, indifferent, or damaging to the crop being “protected.” The ecosystem then has such a lack of diversity that it is essentially a blank substrate that can be easily taken over by a pest again, rather than kept in balance by the multitude of different kinds of critters all vying for the same space.

Also, broad-spectrum pesticides create heavy selection pressure on pest populations, forcing them to rapidly develop resistance to the chemicals being dumped onto the ground. This can quickly lead to the creation of what are commonly referred to as super bugs that are so resistant to our methods to control them that complete crop failure becomes a likely risk. Additionally, there are many other negative environmental side-effects of broad-spectrum pesticides aside from the fact that you’ll make pest control harder for yourself the following season. As our agronomist John Yeo takes on pests on the farm, he remembers Jerry Mahoney’s quote, “If we poison the earth, we’re poisoning ourselves.”

Secondly, broad spectrum pesticides are not good for your health in a more direct way than harming the environment. Anything that is designed to blindly destroy life should not go into your body. Of course there is a system in place that is designed to make sure that anything applied to food crops does not harm you, but this classification system is flawed. In simplified terms, for a pesticide to be approved for use, it must be classified under “non-mammalian toxicity.” But this is highly problematic, as the majority of cells in your body are not actually mammalian. They are protozoan, bacterial, fungal, etc. Just as described above, a healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome.

And lastly, on our farm we feel very strongly about never spraying anything on leafy greens specifically, as they will be consumed raw. That means no organically certified pesticides either. Straight up nothing goes on greens that you will put into your body raw. Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and arugula are very delicate and must be treated as such. To spray something on a leafy green is to eat what you spray, and we take that reality very seriously.

So what do we do to control pests on our farm? Our main control methods are exclusion and staying in tune with the annual rhythms of pest populations. Exclusion controls pests by creating a barrier between them and the plants. For our outdoor greens we put floating row cover, a cheese-cloth like fabric, over the greens and just lift it up when we need to harvest. For crops inside hoop houses, we hang netting over the ends of the house to keep bugs from getting in.

Working with the natural cycles of pest populations is also very important. There will always be certain times of year when pest populations reach their climax. It’s like clockwork. During the times when we know aphids will be rampant, we don’t harvest the crops that they have infested. We wait it out, move on to the next planting, and go back to the old planting after the aphids are gone and it has produced a new set of shoots to harvest.

We also focus heavily on interplanting insectary plants to encourage the growth of beneficial bugs who like to eat pests. Currently, we plant lots of alyssum, and in the past we have also used calendula and phacelia. Alyssum is excellent at attracting wasps that eat aphids and thrips, which are major pests on our farm.

At the very bottom of our pest control repertoire are organically certified sprays, of which we use only three. The most commonly used spray is Surround, a brand of kaolinite clay that is very fine that we spray on winter squash seedlings to protect them from cucumber beetles. The second is BT, a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis that is a naturally-occurring bacteria that lives in the soil. We spray it on Napa cabbage seedlings to prevent moths from laying their caterpillar eggs on them. Lastly, we will use Pyganic, a chrysanthemum derivative, on our pepper seedlings to protect them from aphids. In all of these cases, the crops get sprayed at a very young age to get them through to when they will be strong enough to protect themselves.

If you are reading this, you are likely already someone who is able to choose to pay the extra dollar for organic produce for ethical and health-related reasons. You probably already know that conventional food production is rife with environmental degradation, minimal nutritive quality, and a corporate-controlled suppression of science. But perhaps you didn’t know that finding a beetle in your salad is a physical embodiment of environmental and nutritive health. Either you see a beetle on occasion and you know that you’re eating real food, or you never see any sign of life on your food and you know that it’s been eradicated.

Diversity is what it all comes down to. Diversity is what we work to preserve.

Delicious, nutritious diversity.

By Laura Bennett

September on the Farm – A Time of Transitions

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we go hard all summer long. We Oregonians know all too well that summer sits precariously in the year like an island amidst a sea of rainy days, and we must make the most of it. So we get lost in the heat of the season, trying to soak up every last ray of sunshine while the days are long, jumping into the river every chance we get, and eating our weight of the sweet summer fruits that we’ll soon miss so much. For us on the farm, summer is the time to, as they say, make hay while the sun shines.

But then the abundance of August gives way to September, and things begin to transition all around us. Summer produce begins its descent away from the apex of abundance, and the nights roll in with a chill that reminds us that our time on this summer island will not last forever.

Though most of us mourn summer’s decline, September really is a unique time of year when we still get to enjoy the last fruits of summer even as the fall harvest begins rolling in. Our greens that have taken a hiatus in the heat are now bursting forth with delicate new leaves, winter squash is ripening up on the vine, and the immense diversity of root vegetables that we grow are sizing up secretly beneath the earth.

Farming requires us to have our bodies in tune with the environment in a way that modern life has worked to distance us from, and to notice the cycles of transition by which we must abide. In this way life demands of us that we be present to experience it if we are to expect it to produce the abundant food that graces your plate.

There are hot times and there are cold times, times of abundance and times of famine, and even more times where the lines between these extremes are not so clear. The food in front of you today is an embodiment of transition, and the flavors to be experienced cannot be found at any other time of year or on any other place on the globe. It is regionality by the spoonful. Nowhere else at this moment will a poblano be developing its deep, mole flavor as it enters its chocolate-red state of ripeness, ready to be combined with a sweet and buttery delicata winter squash fresh from the vine. It is in these times of transition that we can literally taste summer ending while fall begins, all within a single bite. Eat up.

Laura Bennett

News from the Farm – Beginning of 2018

GTF is off to a great start in 2018. Spring vegetables are here!  We have been getting great production from our overwintering greens. All the fresh greens you are eating today are from our outdoor production. Watercress and mache are from greenhouse production. All the roots were harvested this last fall and stored away for your enjoyment for many months to come.

Our propagation greenhouse is full of starts which will be transplanted into our high tunnels as well as become our first outdoor plantings. We’ve got a lot of healthy young tomato plants with grafted rootstock to make them even happier. In our high tunnels we have seeded carrots, beets, spinach, cilantro, white turnips, radishes, scallions, chicory, and peas.

If you are willing to embrace the mud, we welcome you to take a look around and enjoy the beauty of our vegetables bursting forth.