The Trouble with Turquois: Avoiding Toxic Seeds

blue squash seed.JPG

Recently, a well-meaning, neighboring farmer handed me some shimmering, turquoise squash seeds.

"Try these,” my neighbor said, holding the blue seeds in his outstretched hand. “You won’t have any problems with bugs or fungus, and they make A LOT of squash. You don’t need to spray much, either.  I know you’ll like that!”  This neighbor knows me well enough to know I never use poisons on my farm.  In his mind, this was a way around poisons. 

(In case you don’t read all of this…please understand: The story about these seeds is not in some faraway field in California or Chile, but here.  The squash you are buying from larger farms at our Wiregrass area local farm stands, are very likely grown from this type of seed.)

Back to the Story
I examined the shiny blue coating and asked if I could look at the package.  He brought out a large white bag with a green and yellow “Seminis” logo.  The label said, “Destiny III Hybrid Yellow Squash.” Underneath the name was a warning: don’t touch, don’t ingest, don’t get in your eyes, keep away from children and pets, toxic to wildlife and birds, not allowed for sale outside of the U.S.

A quick Google search for Destiny III Hybrid Yellow Squash took me to the Seminis website where I learned even more.  Seminis is owned by Monsanto (creator of Roundup).  And besides the turquoise coating of three fungicides and one insecticide, the Destiny III squash are also bioengineered (read genetically modified) to resist several common diseases.

After a thorough review of available information, here are my three biggest concerns about this seed, and all seeds like these.

(1) Destiny III is a hybrid, and PATENTED (don’t get me started on patented seed!), so you can’t save seed for next year.  Not a problem today perhaps, but perhaps a big problem someday. (Like if we ever need to be able to feed ourselves by saving seeds for the next planting season.)

(2) It’s bioengineered to resist disease – so it’s genetically modified (GMO).  Its DNA is changed by scientists in a laboratory.  We just don’t know how our bodies receive genetically modified plant cells that are changed at the protein level to resist viruses, fungi and bacteria. 

(A little aside: What does DNA do anyway?  DNA specifies the proteins that are made that carry out ALL of the reactions necessary to keep our cells alive; they also digest our food for us, influence how we will respond to infections, and determine what color our eyes, hair and skin will be.  In other words, EVERYTHING.)  Here's a good refresher on DNA.

(3) The seed coating itself is likely something called FarMore® FI400 Cucurbits seed coating. (I have not definitively verified, but this is an informed, researched guess.) This common coating for squashes, pumpkins and cucumbers (cucurbits) contains a new insecticide called “Cruiser 5FS,” along with three fungicides.  “Cruiser” is actually a chemical called thiamethoxam - a broad spectrum insecticide produced by Syngenta – it kills all insects, not just the “bad” insects. In fact, thiamethoxam is a systemic insecticide in the class of NEONICOTINOIDS, which are banned in many countries because this class of insecticides is especially toxic to BEES.

Now – here’s the even more upsetting part: Seminis sells home garden seeds, too.  They won’t be coated with FarMore F1400, so they won’t be blue.  But, many of them ARE GMO – or as Seminis says, “biotech.”  Here’s a list of the home garden seeds Seminis offers.

I will admit, I did not foresee GMOs entering the home garden market so soon. Seminis seeds are sold all over the world, and could be sold under many different brands.

Okay, so even if a few squash grown from this seed are not going to give me cancer or other diseases, I still don’t want to eat this kind of squash. I don’t want to support GMOs and neonicotinoids; and the large scale monoculture agriculture that deploys this kind of patented seed; and the cheap food from the cheap farm labor; and the fact that farm laborers are probably touching this seed and having to breathe dust from large trailers of this seed; and the factories that mix the chemicals to coat this seed; and the communities being taken over all over the world by Monsanto’s patented seed.

So What to Do?

The best source for foods is to grow at least some of it yourself from certified organic seed!  We can help you with our Grow Something! Backyard Garden Training.  The second best is local, sustainable farms, who freely talk about their growing practices.  Third is certified organic produce from smaller grocers, and fourth is certified organic produce from larger grocers. 

Please vote with your dollars.  Please inform yourselves.  Read what these companies put out.  Read what agricultural universities promote regarding herbicides, pesticides, drying down, GMO seeds, and seed coatings.

If you are over 30, you haven't been exposed to this your whole life, but if you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10 - they have been, and there is a growing concern about the effects of these chemicals in our food and our environment.

June 3 Is Opening Day for Blueberry Season at Gaucho Farms

Saturday, June 3, 2017 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.

What to expect?
What to bring?
What are the rules?
Can we see the animals?
What else will you have for sale?
What other days can we pick?

What can I expect?
We are open from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. The blueberry patch is down the road from the house in front of the pond. The early varieties are ripe, but they were the hardest hit by the late freeze, so volume s down. IF you are a volume picker (gallons) you may want to wait a couple of weeks for peak season. If you want a few pints of the biggest berries to eat and make some muffins, then this is your day! Cost is $3 / lb u-pick. A scale is provided at the blueberry patch and at the farm store behind the house. Pay for berries at the farm store.

What to bring?
Wear close-toed shoes, and you can bring your own picking basket or we will have picking bags available at the farm store.

What are the rules?
1. The number one rule is to have fun, and taste berries from the bush. Some bushes have sweeter berries than others.
2. CHILDREN MUST BE SUPERVISED AT ALL TIMES.
The blueberry patch is in front of an open pond. Children 6 and under must have an adult dedicated to their supervision and safety. Snakes are around ponds, and occasionally there is an alligator in the pond. 
3. No dogs.
4. Please do not pick red and green berries from the bush or let children throw berries.
5. Pay for berries at the farm store behind the white house.

Can we see the animals?
The animals are out and about and you can certainly see how big the lambs have gotten. There will be chickens roaming around, but we are not allowing visitors out into the pastures, like we do during our farm events. It is very hot, and the lambs and sheep do not need to be stressed at this time of year. We want everyone to have a great experience here, so if this is the main reason you are coming out, we don't want you to be disappointed.

What else will you have for sale?
At the farm store behind the house we will have:
100% grass-fed and finished Gaucho Beef.
100% grass-fed and finished Gaucho Lamb.
Pastured, GMO free, corn free, soy-free eggs
100% Chemical free squash
100% Chemical free kale
Raw Local Honey
No Deet Mosquito and Gnat Repellant
A few other items....

What other days can we pick?
Blueberry season is just starting and we want to manage the harvest. We will DEFINITELY be open every Saturday morning in June, and as the peak season approaches, we will be open during the week. I will post a weekly schedule to try to make sure that you have a good picking experience! If it's very hot and we get some rain, you may see me say "HURRY BRING YOUR BUCKETS!" and that's when you'll be able to pick an easy volume of berries.

Spring Lamb Days Are March 18 at Gaucho Farms!

Our most attended event of the year!
What's cuter than baby lambs?!
Come help us celebrate Spring Lamb Days 2017!

Lamb Days 2017!
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Please scroll through this post for some important details!
Admission is FREE - we have opportunities for you to help us offset expenses. Feed the sheep, take photos with the lambs, and enjoy the day!

Bring Your Quarters!
Feed the Farm Animals - small cups of feed $0.25.

A Word About Restrooms
Our restroom is for emergencies only - we cannot accommodate large bathroom crowds because we are on a septic system! Please plan accordingly - there are public restrooms 1 mile away in Slocomb. We have an outdoor wash sink for handwashing.

Please Watch Children Closely
This is a working farm. We have certain areas roped off for safety, so please do not cross these lines. Children must be supervised at all times.

Schedule
Farm and Farmacy Open!
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The Farmacy will be stocked with:
- 100% grass-fed and finished beef,
- 100% grass-fed and finished lamb,
- Soy-free, GMO-free pastured eggs,
- Chemical-free microgreens,
- Chemical-free pea shoots,
- Fermented salsa and slaw,
- Fresh chemical free greens.
- Raw honey,
- Certified Organic heirloom seeds to plant.
- Natural garden plant spray.

Lamb Turn Out
We call it Running of the Lambs!
Lambs and moms are turned out onto pasture for the day. Expect lots of jumping and cuteness!
10 a.m.

Feed the Farm Animals
Feed the sheep and chickens - bring your quarters!
$0.25 / cup of feed
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Take Your Own Photos with Lambs
Take photos with the lambs - use your own camera or camera phone! - $2.00 per person
Proceeds support the feeding of bottle lambs!
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Kids-N-Lambs Photos
Professional Kids-N-Lambs photos with Goodeye Girl Photography's Lisa Williams. $15 for portrait and access to digital photo file (no prints). Only 1 or two poses provided - you can request more for an additional fee.
Part of the proceeds support the feeding of bottle lambs!
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Grow Something 2
The second part of Grow Something! Lots of gardeing infor and Q&A with Suzanne
Meet by the garden.
Ask all the questions you want to ask and pre-order your seedlings for the first of April.

Read About the People Behind Sustainable Fall Farm Day 2016!

When the craziness of Farm Day is behind us, and I have some time to catch up and reflect on the day and what it means, I am always overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in my life, who give of themselves to help me, my family, and this little local farm succeed. 
 
Many of you know that 2016 has been an especially trying year for my family.  Jorge and I ended our marriage, and he decided to move back to his homeland of Argentina.  My two boys are missing their dad, and have had to take a giant step into manhood at the tender ages of 11 and 13.  Thanks to family and friends they are doing well, and this all will become a part of their life stories.

I hope you will read this whole post because this event is a reflection of community at its finest.  Family, lifelong friends, newer friends, church family, and kindred spirits pulled together to say,

“We want preserve these traditions. We want to be part of this larger community.  We want to support each other and healthier lifestyles.  We want healthy, chemical free foods.  We want a place for our children to come connect with the land and the food they eat.”


If you visited and ate samples or snacks at Gaucho Farms on Saturday, you didn’t just fill your stomach, you nourished your body.  And hopefully you nourished your soul.
 
In my feature photo I posted a quote by Thomas Merton that starts out, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us…and He has given us everything.”  And I am truly grateful, thankful and humbled by the show of support from so many of you to pull off another great farm event, but also to make it through this tough year.  I want you to know I never take any of this for granted!

To my children, Daniel and Jacob, I’m so proud of you for all of the hard work you’ve put in without grumbling, and how you’ve taken charge of so many duties this year.  To my parents, Henry and Afrey Wright, who give tirelessly of themselves.  My sisters Nona Stockton (who pressure washed my house!) and Denise Wright, who give me limitless support and feedback.

Stephanie and Joe Varner, great friends and supporters who were the backbone of pulling off Sustainable Fall Farm Day 2016, and Stephanie has helped me streamline so many things lately. 

Lucinda Harrison, my lifelong friend and sister, set up and ran the on-farm store like she has so many times in the past, and offers loads of friendship and moral support every day. 

Lavonda Gosselin, who absolutely mastered the sample preparation and service, and is another source of constant encouragement.  Lavonda’s husband, Andy, who was grill master, daughter Allie who helped with samples, daughter Victoria, who ran the Children’s Learning Center, and son Anderson, who made an emergency run to rescue my new chicks – the entire Gosselin family showed up and helped! 

Christi Ingum, lifelong friend and confidant, who came all the way down from Auburn to man the sample table as she has several years in the past. 

To Nicholas Ireland, who has helped every year with parking, safety and overall event timing. (You may have seen him running up and down the dusty road all day – a special thanks!)

Dr. Scot and Amy Thompson, who besides being my Dothan drop partner, showed up and helped greet visitors, helped with trouble shooting, and emptied garbage cans (such servant hearts!). They are the real deal when it comes to supporting your overall health! 

William Shirling, who ran the hayride, and spoke about chickens and bees. William is my go-to person for information and building projects throughout the year. 

The Samuels (Ben, Jen, Stephen and Abby) who are part of my church family, and just always show up when I really need them – I don’t think I ever thank them enough.  Their son, Phillip, has worked here some, and daughter, Hannah, now in college, has helped in the past.  

Dr. Niel Rasmussen, wife Amy, and daughter Marie (and friend), who are so right on as an M.D. and as a family, about healthy lifestyles.  He was kind enough to share his knowledge about the dangers of sugar, and I suggest you friend him on Facebook and read his posts on this topic, or look him up if you are interested in a more preventative approach to health. 

Lisa Williams of Goodeye Girl Photography who came and took mini-portraits.  Lisa and Mark are inspiring people to know! 

David and Lisa Dault of Dault Pottery, who brought their wares and shared their talents with the pottery wheel.  They are such an inspiration with their knowledge and skills as artisans, and interest in healthy lifestyles and foods.  

Shan Harley, kindred spirit, who took it upon herself at the end of farm day, with her lovely daughter and Nicholas Ireland, to cover my beans so they wouldn’t freeze and I would still have a crop. (It worked and I do!)

Working Cows Dairy, who brought their milk and milking cow for the day.

Jimmy Riley and Ten Mile Branch, who played bluegrass for us on a beautiful fall afternoon!  So fun!

There were also some folks who were not physically here for Sustainable Fall Farm Day 2016, but had a big role in making is all work. 

Wes Green has been helping with repairs, building projects (the new bucking barrel for one) and clean up for months.  He is such a great person to have around.

Juan Sanchez, my neighbor, stops by daily to help with any heavy lifting, and chicken and turkey processing.  I can’t thank him and his family enough. 

My book club compadres Mary Anna Davis and Ashley Mertz (and Lavonda Gosselin), who listen to my concerns and questions, tirelessly offering hope and encouragement – thank you and I love our book club so much! 

Many, many other friends and customers who have become friends, who encourage me daily – too many to mention -  but I promise you, I hear you and you help carry us through!

Any of you who are ever involved in putting on an event know that it takes a tremendous effort.  With a small budget and a lot of moving parts, we just couldn’t do it without all of you.  So from the bottom of my heart, I am THANKFUL!

 

Suzanne Wright, owner

Please Mark Your Calendars for Sustainable Fall Farm Day 2016!

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the farm in Slocomb
1808 S. Watford Rd
Slocomb, AL 36375

CONFIRMED SCHEDULE!

9:00 a.m. - Open - Farm Store and Farm Opens
Stocked to the gills with beef, lamb, chickens, turkeys, eggs, honeys, sauces, vegetables and gifts!

All Displays and Learning Tents Open

9:30 a.m. - Hayrides Start - Run every 30 minutes until 3:00 p.m.

Lisa Williams with Goodeye Girl Photography Mini Sessions
Family Portraits, Christmas Card Portraits, Fun Kid Pictures - $15 for digital files
(There will be fall backdrops and baby chicks involved.)

9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. - Dault Pottery
Pottery Demonstration with Pottery Wheel

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Free Samples While They Last!

10:00 - 10:30 a.m. - Suzanne Wright, Gaucho Farms owner
"$30/30 Plan to Help Sustainable Agriculture in the Wiregrass"

11:00 a.m. - Dr. Niel Rasmussen
"Is Sugar the New Tobacco?"

12 p.m. - Guided Farm Tour - Tour Your Sustainable Farm and Ask All the Questions You Want to Ask.

1 p.m. - 2 p.m. - William Shirling
Backyard Chickens 101
Backyard Beekeeping 101

2 p.m. - 4 p.m. - Jimmy Riley's latest bluegrass collaboration, "Ten MIle Branch" will play from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. at Sustainable Fall Farm Day! Woohoo!  Bring a lawn chair!

2 p.m. - 4 p.m. - Feed the Farm Animals

4 p.m. - Farm and Farm Store Closed

NEW FOODWIRE SERIES: How You Can Support Sustainable Agriculture in the Wiregrass

Become a “Friend of the Farm” and Take Our $30 in 30 Pledge!

What stops you from buying regularly from local family farms?  I’ve been asking this pointed question lately in an attempt to clearly define the obstacles preventing Wiregrass area consumers from buying locally grown produce and meats. 

At Gaucho Farms we make regular deliveries, open the farm on some Saturdays and try to be responsive to customers.  But as hard as we try, we aren’t growing.  We are stuck in a middle ground of making just enough to get by and maintain the farm, but not enough to grow, hire help, or offer more products and services. 

I’m trying to develop a small farm model that can be replicated,  so more small farms can grow chemical free, healthy, fresh foods.  Small, biodynamic farms don't just produce great food. They provide a buffer between us and natural or man-mad catastrophes, between us and Big Ag, between us and Big Food, between us and Big Pharma. Small farms preserve skills and knowledge like soil building, seed saving, and permaculture.  Well managed small farms are an ecological refuge and are extremely biodiverse.

Our local food system needs to be stronger, and stronger starts with a multitude of economically viable small farms.  So it’s vitally important that we, as consumers and farmers, partner in this endeavor.

The Top 10 Most Frequently Reported Obstacles to Buying Local
Do any of these sound familiar? 

1) I’m not sure where/how to buy local, chemical free foods.

2) I’m not sure when the order days/pick up days are.

3) I get busy and forget to place my order.

4) The order system is confusing/unwieldy.

5) The place/time of pick up doesn’t work well for me.

6) I’m not sure I’ll cook certain unfamiliar vegetables/cuts of meat / whole chicken.

7) You sell out of the things I want too fast.

8) I cook pretty often, but I’m not a planner.  I’ll just run in the store to pick up a few things for that night.

9) Sometimes you (or other locals) are not offering what I would like to cook that week.

10)  I’m going to the beach/lake this weekend, and I don’t want to leave food in the fridge or carry a lot of food with me.

I get it!  All of these are legitimate obstacles, as we all lead our busy, Americanized lives.  When I ask my questions, I often get asked a question in return, “So what can I do to help you?” 

Become a “Friend of the Farm” and Take Our $30 in 30 Pledge!

After much thought on bigger picture things that can be done (more on this in a future FOODWIRE post), I’ve come up with ONE SIMPLE THING YOU CAN DO TO HELP US AND FARMS LIKE OURS SURVIVE.

It’s called my “$30/30” plan.  I’m asking you to spend $30 with us at least once every 30 days.  One time per month spend $30 and a little extra effort to order from us.  If you absolutely cannot order from us, and you have the means, then DONATE any amount to us through our new DONATE button we'll be adding to our website. 

Your monthly purchase or donation will help us keep our heads above water, and start to grow.  Perhaps we can provide a few good jobs, maintain and improve infrastructure, plant more crops, implement new learning programs. 

So – here’s my pledge – I will work very hard to let you know when, where, and how to buy our products.  I pledge to be a good steward of any extra funds we receive to grow our offering of products and services.

Will you pledge a minimum of $30/30?  Of course, you can always make a bigger purchase and buy more often, if you’d like!  And if we run out of products – GREAT!  Know that it’s working, that we’re selling out, and that will allow us to GROW!  Please be patient as we work through the growing pains in our endeavor to help build the kind of local food system the Wiregrass area deserves. 

 



 

Why Is Gaucho Closing for 6 Weeks?

We're so happy you care! I've had several people ask me, so I thought I'd fill you in! (And I've had a snort or two with an, "I wish I could take six weeks off!" and I know most of you understand we are not really taking 6 weeks off.)

1. Historically, the Dog Days of summer are really slow for our business. Most people escape to the lake or the beach or the pool, and don't really want to fire up the oven or the stove.

2. We need to evaluate and plan, and survey you! How can we better serve you? How can we become fiscally sustainable? The first rule of sustainability is economic viability. What's working and what's not? BIG QUESTIONS!

3. We need to get our fall gardening plans together. And we'd like to hold some fall gardening classes. Fall gardening is way more fun than summer gardening where we live!

4. We need to get our sheep ready for the breeding season. Believe it or not Sept. 1 starts our 2017 breeding season, and we have to trim hooves and vaccinate, and sort and plan our breeding groups.

5. We need to get our pastured turkey poults started.

6. We need to manage the height of chicken season, and get those broilers growing and harvested for you!

7. We need to repair the boardwalk and a few other maintenance type projects.

8. We need to plan our biggest Fall Farm Day to date!!

9. I need to get my youngest ready for 6th grade. He's going back into a classroom after homeschooling for 2 years.

10. I need to take my boys for a little adventure. Man, they have been working hard, and deserve a fun break!

Thank you so much for your patience. And those of you with health concerns, food allergies, and chemical sensitivities - we are always here for you!

Growing Great Tomatoes!

Gaucho Farms Heirloom Vegetable Plant Sale is March 25 - April 2, and one thing we grow a lot of is heirloom tomatoes! 
You can come browse at the farm, or you can pre-order your tomatoes either with our Reserve Form, or actually pre-pay, if you'd like!  If yo order 10 or more plants, be sure to use the coupon code GFP25 to get 25% off your order!!  We'll also deliver your plants to Thompson Chiropractic in Dothan or Living Tree Health Foods in Enterprise on Wednesdays free of charge!

Planting Tomatoes

· Choose a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil. Mix in a layer of mature compost.

· Dig planting holes at least 18 inches apart, and enrich each with a spadeful of additional compost mixed with a balanced organic fertilizer (look for one that promotes blooming - a little higher in phosphorus).  Crushed eggshells are good, too!

· Plant tomatoes deeper than they grew in their containers, so that only the top five or six leaves show at the surface. Additional roots will grow from the buried section of stem. 

· Prevent cracked fruits by mulching tomatoes heavily in early summer, after the soil has warmed.  

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds
If you're growing tomatoes for seed-saving, keep in mind that wind and insects can transfer pollen, creating crosses between varieties. For pure seed, save seeds from plants that were grown apart from other tomato varieties. Or isolate a branch with a gauze bag until fruit has set. Mark the branch with red yarn and save the seeds from that fruit only.

Preventing Tomato Pests and Diseases

· Most tomatoes are susceptible to a fungal disease called early blight. The best intervention is to prune off affected leaves with dry, brown patches surrounded by concentric, black rings. as soon as you see them. Removing all leaves within 18 inches of the ground can reduce or delay outbreaks.  

· Prevent blossom end rot by growing tomatoes in fertile soil generously enriched with compost, and mulch heavily to keep soil moisture levels as constant as possible. 

· Be vigilant and pick off larger bugs and put in a cup of soapy water.  Things like leaf-footed bugs and stink bugs can do a lot of damage.  Deter these and other garden pests with a combination of garlic, soap and diatomaceous earth.  We sell this combo in a spray bottle and call it "Bug OFF!", but you can make your own.

· Tomato hornworms (large, green caterpillars w/white stripes) are the larvae of a large moth. Handpick them starting in early summer (follow the trail of pebbly caterpillar droppings to find them). In extremely bad years, control hornworms using Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or spinosad, two widely available biological pesticides. 

· Provide excellent light penetration and air circulation to keep plants dry, reducing the risk of late blight.

· Stake or cage tomatoes to raise them above damp conditions close to the ground.  

Pruning Tomatoes
Here isa link to the most thorough article I've ever seen on pruning tomatoes - complete with how-to videos! http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx.  A properly pruned and supported single-stem tomato plant presents all of its leaves to the sun. Most of the sugar produced is directed to the developing fruit, since the only competition is a single growing tip.

 

 

Spring Lamb Days 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday, March 5!

Our favorite event!  Spring is our favorite time of year, and we invite you to come out and see what is growing at Gaucho Farms! Lamb Days is fun and educational for the whole family. This year we will have the following activities:
Farm Open - 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Farmacy (Farm Store) - 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Take Your Own Photos with the Lambs - 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. - $2.00
Kids-N-Lambs Professional Photos with Goodeye Girl Photography (Lisa Williams) - 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. - $15.00
Build - A - Bluebird House - 10 a.m. - $25.00 (must pre-register)
Backyard Chickens with William Shirling - 11 a.m.
Laying Chicks (Guaranteed Hens) available - 9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Gardening Q&A with Suzanne 1 p.m.