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Organic Is a Growing Concern at Boulder’s Cure Farm

by John Lehndorff

Hundreds of braided garlic bulbs lie drying in the shade as oinks, quacks, and a honeybee buzzsaw fill the air at Cure Organic Farm. A rebel rooster sounds off, unwilling to limit his crowing to dawn at the acreage east of Boulder.

On a warm, late summer morning, full-time farm manager and mom Anne Cure  simultaneously directs work in the field while getting paperwork ready for the regular “broccoli audit” from the folks who certify the farm as an organic operation. They track a crop from seed to purchase. She is not concerned about retaining the certification.

Cure has been an organic endeavor almost from the moment Anne and her husband Paul started farming in 2005. “We were able to get organic certification for our land the first year,” she said, because the land had been so well-treated by earlier farmers including a local legend, John Ellis. “They used to farm organically before it was ever labeled that way,’” she said.

The farm’s customers care whether the food is grown locally as much as they do about organic certification. “They want to know where and how the food was grown,” she said. For CSA (community supported agriculture), the link is strengthened because they must come to the farm to pick up their share of the produce.

“At our booth at the farmers’ market I’ll hear our members point to us and say ‘This is my farm.’ That’s great to hear,” Anne said.

Cure currently grows about 100 varieties of organic vegetables and flowers on 12 leased acres. Greens including chard and kale, roots from beets to shallots, as well as haricot vert and eggplant are still coming in from the fields. “But September is all about tomatoes around here,” she said. Anne makes a panzanella (bread) salad almost every day for the farm family using the ripest, sweetest tomatoes and is planning on freezing, canning, and drying more.

A few precious pounds of honey will also be harvested soon from the farm’s vital beehives and available at the farm store along with their farm-raised chicken, duck eggs, Berkshire pork, and Rambouillet lamb.

When Anne and Paul say they focus on being local, they really mean it. Besides selling in season at their farm store and the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, the farm supplies 190 families who are part of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You’ll also find the greens and vegetables mentioned by name on the menus of notable eateries like the Flagstaff House, Frasca, and The Kitchen. Everything produced by the farm is used within 50 miles of the farm, and the only grocery store that sells Cure organic produce is Alfalfa’s Market.

Anne Cure and Alfalfa’s go back a long ways. “I shopped at the original Alfalfa’s when I was a student at Naropa,” Anne says.

“Before the new store even opened they reached out to the organic growers in Boulder and we talked to the produce buyer about our farm.” That close relationship with the community of local organic farmers, ranchers and food producers has only grown, she said.

‘What inspires me to grow organic is that it’s the closest to mimicking nature. It focuses on diversity in the field which is healthier for the farm and the consumer.”

The future is always now when you work on a farm. “Farmers are always thinking three to five years ahead, planning what they will grow,” she said. In order to spread the word about organics, sustainability and to entice a younger generation of growers, the Cures give tours, offer classes and dinners, host farm interns and stage a kids’ farm camp every summer.

On this particular day, the future of organic looks bright at the Cure’s home on the farm. Georgia, the Cure’s always smiling older daughter, already gets it.

“She heads to the kids’ vegetable patch and tells me ‘I’m going to harvest from my garden,’ Anne said with a wide smile.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The Cure Organic Farm Store (southwest corner of 75th and Valmont in Boulder) is open through December 15. Upcoming classes at the farm include Jam Making (Sept. 14). For information on the CSA, volunteering opportunities, farm tours, and summer farm camps, visit cureorganicfarm.com

 

A TOMATO TIP FROM CURE ORGANIC FARM

How to freeze whole fresh tomatoes:

Wash tomatoes. Cut away the stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes, remove them from the freezer a few at a time as needed. To peel, just run a frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.

 

 

 

WHAT DOES CERTIFIED ORGANIC MEAN? 

“Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”

– Source: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop

 

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My Discovery of Organic


by Chris Howell

To be honest, the idea of organic food was not always that appealing to me. I associated it with higher prices and a shorter shelf life than conventional food. When you’re raised with lots of processed foods and junk foods it can prove difficult to give organic food a fair shot. Growing up in the South did not make it any easier. Food was food. There was no significance given to how it was grown or where it came from.  Several years ago, I decided to stop buying into hearsay and all the health food stereotypes and do a little research of my own.

First and foremost, there is a lot of information out there on organic food, and its practices and certifications, and it can appear overwhelming at first. So let me share with you the things that I’ve learned over the last several years.

  1. The people who grow my food care about me and my health. I appreciate the fact that the people who are growing and cultivating my food could choose an easier and more industrial path for growing their produce. They choose not to use synthetic pesticides or chemicals to help grow their food often at a higher cost to them. Chemicals that historically have been shown to have environmental consequences. If organic farmers are willing to invest a little more in my health and my food, then I can too. 
  2. Growing organic food encourages other humane practices. I work in the coffee and juice department at Alfalfa’s Market and in that world we throw around terms like fair trade, direct trade, and organic when it comes to coffee. Typically a company that sells organic coffee is often treating the farmers who grow their coffee beans fairly with sustainable importing and wages.
  3. Eating organic makes you feel better. Your body is not taking in highly processed ingredients and preservatives that are difficult or dangerous for your body to process and break down. You can definitely distinguish between an organic food versus one that may be genetically modified or doused in pesticides. Additionally, it is encouraging to know that my dollars spent on organic food are supporting sustainable farming and environmental practices.
  4. Nothing beats fresh. Organic food is often the best tasting and freshest food you will find. There is an emphasis on getting the food to you in the best condition possible as well as from local farms if possible. That way you can enjoy your food the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

September is organic month here at Alfalfa’s Market so stop by our store and see what all you can learn about organic food!

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Three Easy Steps to an Abundant Fall Garden

By Bryant Mason

“It’s too late to build a garden this year” is a statement we hear over and over again at The Urban Farm Company of Colorado. Having installed hundreds of raised bed vegetable gardens for homeowners and businesses along the Front Range, we’ve realized the statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Our goal is simple: to help people grow their own food in their backyard in an easy and fun way. We believe that the best time to install a garden is actually in the mid-Summer or Fall.

Step 1: Garden in the Fall

It sounds crazy, but planting most cold season vegetables—such as spinach, radishes, lettuce, kale, chard, broccoli, sugar snap peas—in the fall yields abundant harvests as the weather cools in September and October. A fall garden is also perfect for those who like  to impress friends with more exotic non-grocery vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, tatsoi, mache, sorrel, and Hon Tsai Tai—greens that thrive in cooler temperatures.

Every Colorado gardener has experienced their leafy greens “bolting” in June and July as the summer heat stops the plant’s leafy production. If you plant these same vegetables in August and September the warm weather in late summer allows seeds to germinate quickly and then mature as the weather cools down. The soil structure and ecology is also given time to develop over the course of the winter, setting the stage for the prized purple heirloom tomatoes, beans, and kohlrabi planted in the spring.

Step 2: Use a Raised Bed

At The Urban Farm Company, we’ve found that the key to easy and successful gardening is the raised bed. By gardening in a raised bed, you can avoid the Colorado clay by creating 12 inches of soil high in organic matter that doesn’t take years to create with constant soil amendment. We create our soil mix with topsoil, high-quality compost, worm castings, rice hulls, composted pine bark, and biochar. Also, adding sand and peat can help with drainage and provides more oxygen to the plant roots.

Step 3: Try Using a Cold Frame

Raised beds will also allow you to attach a cold frame to your garden—an easy trick to extend the season even further into the winter (and to start your gardening earlier in the spring). The simple frames with greenhouse plastic create an insulated micro-climate for plants. Nothing is more exciting than harvesting a salad of premium greens in the middle of December with a foot of snow on the ground. The frames also let you beat the farmers’ market by several weeks, by producing the first salad greens of the year in March.

More and more, people are realizing the benefits of homegrown food—taste, health, sustainability and fun. Don’t wait until next spring to start a garden. If you plant now, harvesting your own backyard veggies is only a month away!

Bryant Mason is the founder of The Urban Farm Company of Colorado.

The Urban Farm Company is offering a FREE Cold Frame with a purchase of a garden.

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