Archive for Farming

Local Arizona honey sold at Farmers Markets

Mesquite Honey

Absolutely Delightful Mesquite Honey available at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market on Saturdays (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Desert Wild Flower Honey

Absolutely Delightful Desert Wild Flower Honey available at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market on Saturdays (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

The desert southwest is certainly the last place some people would think of as a place that produces honey.  The National Honey Board says, “The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the blossoms).  In fact, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, originating from such diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossoms.  In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor.”  There are some distinct pollen sources in Arizona.  One company called Absolutely Delightful Honey offers, “Uniquely delicious, natural flavors to include orange blossom, alfalfa, mesquite, desert wild flower, Flagstaff wild flower, catsclaw and camelthorn. From time to time we get small batches of rare honeys like prickly pear or staghorn (cholla) cactus honey.”  They are found at four Phoenix-area farmers markets throughout the week.  The Benefits of Honey website says, “Honey is a great natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies. Honey is known for its effectiveness in instantly boosting the performance, endurance and reduce muscle fatigue of athletes.” One way to incorporate this energy booster into a diet is to use it as a substitute for sugar.  It could be added to teas to make them sweeter and to pastries for a great unique flavor.

Clover Honey

Clover Honey available at any health food store like Sprouts or Whole Foods Market (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Alfalfa Blossom Honey

Alfalfa Blossom Honey available at any health food store like Sprouts or Whole Foods Market (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Honey is a great product for everyone to eat.  Just make sure if someone is allergic to bees, not to include the honeycomb in their honey.  The desert southwest has honey distinctive to the area, but so does honey that is produced in other parts of the country and around the world.  It is like people can go on adventures just by tasting honey.

Absolutely Delightful Logo

Absolutely Delightful Local Arizona Honey available at four Phoenix-area farmers markets over the week (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).


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Hydroponic gardens are great for foodies and chefs alike


Hydroponically grown basil at AZ Growing store in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).


This small hydroponic system is a great beginner kit for people wanting to try hydroponic gardening available through AZ Growing (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Many people in this world are turning to hydroponic gardens to grow their fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  In a recent article published in Maximum Yield Magazine, author Dr. Lynette Morgan says, “Fortunately, flavor in fruits and vegetables is something that can be manipulated to various degrees by the grower—and in hydroponics we have far greater control over growth factors than we do with outdoor crops—so there’s no reason for our homegrown flavors not to be fantastic…” Restaurant owner, Homaro Cantu, recently made an aeroponics(a type of hydroponic gardening) garden in the basement of one of his restaurants because he realized the value of taste that comes from growing hydroponically.


High yielding cherry tomato plants being grown indoors with lights and hydroponics at AZ Growing in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chefs are not the only ones talking about hydroponics.  A cast of hydroponic garden hobbyists created a podcast called “Heavy T’s Grow Show”, where listeners can call and ask questions, listen to interviews, and receive prizes just for calling in.  With the influx of people turning to hydroponics, especially in more arid desert regions like Phoenix, Arizona, it must be an easy way to grow plants, right?  Aaron Heimes of AZ Growing located in Scottsdale, Arizona says, “You need to pick up a book.  The book that I read and helped me get started is How-to Hydroponicsby Keith Roberto.”  Reading about hydroponics and the do-it-yourself techniques will teach anyone how to make their food taste better.


Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA) being used for a hydroponic growing medium at the AZ Growing store (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

hydroponic system

Hydroponic systems can also be very intricate like this one at the AZ Growing store (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).


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Travels to Metamora,Indiana

Departing from Grand Central Station in Connersville, Indiana, is the scenic Whitewater Valley Railroad.  It travels along the Whitewater River and Canals to a town called Metamora, Indiana and it only does this once on Saturday and once on Sunday, so the trip is sure to be special.  Once in Metamora, there is plenty to see and do.  One place to stop and eat is called, The Smelly Gourmet, where samples of family grown popcorn is given to patrons while they wait for one of many homemade Panini sandwiches and pita chips.  They are also known for their coffee bar.  Tasty dessert places can also be found around town like Mr. Fudge’s Confectionary that features an antique soda fountain and Grannie’s Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor where over 2400 different cookie jars are on display and ice cream is scooped into homemade waffle cones.  Throughout the year, Metamora also has food related festivals.  The first weekend of June, they have the Strawberry Daze festival.  In October, they have the ever-popular Canal Days event where vendors of all kinds come to celebrate the town with the canal.  Finally, in November, they have a Chili cook-off.  Metamora, Indiana is a town for people who love antiques, trains, history, haunted houses, and most importantly, great homemade food.



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Farmers’ Markets

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Fruit and veggie farming battle

Every produce consumer is a part of the debate about organic food because it is in every grocery store, mega mart, and produce stand.  It is up to consumer preference to what they purchase: organic fruits and vegetables or conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Organic vs. Conventionally Farmed


Conventionally farmed dragonfruit taken at a local grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

Is it true that organically grown fruits and vegetables are better nutritionally?  A CNN Article gave people some insight on this issue.  It said, “A few small studies have shown that some organic foods contain higher nutrient levels than conventional ones. For example, a recent study showed that organic ketchup had 57 percent more of the antioxidant lycopene than regular ketchup.”


Meyer Organic Lemons taken at The Fresh Market (a strictly whole-food) grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

In an article posted by Grist about this debate they studied strawberry crops.  “The study design was both careful and comprehensive in scope. The strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields, with organic/conventional field pairs located adjacently in order to control for soil type and weather patterns. The data was drawn from repeated harvests over a two-year period, and the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions to replicate retail practices. And just as farming is a complex business, scientists contributing to the study range from soil and food scientists to genetics experts and statistics specialists, who analyzed 31 soil properties, soil DNA, and the relative taste and nutritional quality of three strawberry varieties in California.  The results are pretty convincing: organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries.”

The bottom line


These organic peas were bought at a local farmers' market (photo by Christina Thompson 2010).

The Grist article also offers this, “Its findings only apply to strawberries — but they do point the way to the kind of research that can, and should, be done with other crops as well.”  The studied only offered that strawberry crops are better organically for us.  The CNN article has Charles Benbrook, a Ph.D. scientist with The Organic Center saying, “Read labels and look at each product in its own right. An organic potato chip may contain as many calories and saturated fat grams as a conventional chip. The price premiums associated with processed organic food are not as great as the premiums charged for organic whole foods.”  In the article too, they have Professor Alan McHughen, Ph.D. of botany and plant sciences at the University of California, Riverside with this understanding, “Focus on foods’ benefit to your immediate environment — i.e. your body — first.  A good diet means variety, balance, and moderation, regardless of the farming method that produced the food.”

Sea beans

These delicious sea beans were found at a local grocer, but not in the organic section (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

There really is some difference to organic and conventional farming, but other things maybe added to the organic food to make it worse for you then conventionally farmed produce.  Like Benbrook says, “Read labels!!”

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Eating sustainable fish


There is a hunger for fish in society and this is causing strain on species population. It has been shown in recent and past media coverage that modern fishing practices have not been concerned with overfishing or the possibility of eradicating fishing grounds locally and across the globe. With profit being the major motivator in business practices, overfishing has been deemed a major threat to fresh and salt water species according to UNEP.  The cod market of Newfoundland Grand Banks, Canada is a blemish to the fishing market, and an example of how a prosperous industry can drive a species to the brink of extinction.

Greenpeace International describes the collapse of the fishing grounds in Newfoundland Grand Banks.  Industrialization and the use of factory trawlers resulted in significant increases in fish processing and led to the near depletion of cod catches in the fishery. Not only did this spell disaster for the stocks, but the nearly 40,000 jobs dependent on the catch. It still uncertain that the fish stock will ever recover.

Looking at the trawl-net cod as an example, conservationists have recently made great efforts to release papers showing people what fish are sustainably caught.  The chart below is just a simple example of what they have released.

Fish Chart
Seafood Watch 2012 helped create this chart.
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Chia Pets have become a health food phenomenon

Chia Pet Kitten

This is a Chia Pet Kitten that can be purchased at many stores as a novelty Christmas gift (Courtesy of 2012).

At first glance at the headline, it probably looks like a joke or just another fad put out by the health food industry to make us laugh.  There was an article published on a local news site that told the truth…Chia seeds really are good for you!  This boggles the mind because so many people have received the Chia Pet as a gag gift since it’s inception in 1977.

Chia (Salvia hispanica), has been harvested (for the seeds) by the Aztecs and is still being grown and collected today by the people of Mexico and Guatemala.  The seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for our natural metabolism.  When the seeds are grown on the Chia Pet, they grow into micro greens and are a good substitution for alfalfa sprouts on sandwiches.

These are the Chia Seeds that are harvested for consumption in a bulk bin at Whole Foods (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

There are other benefits that come along with the chia seeds.  Do you suffer from Diverticulitis?  Well, chia seeds are a good source of fiber to help prevent it.  Need energy?  Chia seeds are your answer for beneficial proteins that provide a healthy boost of energy all day.

There are recipesout there for people to cook or bake using the seeds as substitution for less butter and oil, adding moisture to baked goods in a healthier way.  Another source to add the seeds to your diet would be to drink Mamma Chia drinks. Mamma Chia’s motto is, “Seed your Soul.”   The drink boasts it has 2000 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, 644 mg of Omega-6 fatty acids, 230 mg of Omega-9 fatty acids, 10 g of fiber, 33 mg of Calcium, and 4 g of protein per serving (1bottle).  Who would have guessed that a bunch of chia seeds would supply that much nutrition?

Mamma Chia Drink

These are just two of the flavors of Mamma Chia drinks available at Whole Foods stores (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chia seeds are not just a fad; they are healthy for us to eat.  More and more grocery stores are starting to carry the seeds in bulk or in bags.  It is still an expensive purchase, but well worth the nutritional value.  Since chia seeds are also being grown as micro greens, it wouldn’t be surprising to find them amongst other micro greens at local farmer’s markets.

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Growing & eating your own harvest


Red Leaf Romaine Lettuce growing in the hoop house at Gorman Farm (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Many people find it easier to go to the store than to grow their own “crops.”   Classes are being offered at extension offices of universities across the country.  Many of the classes relate to allocating garden space to growing organic fruits and vegetables.  Instructors are using books and their own knowledge to help people create sustainable harvests from home.  In Cincinnati, Gorman Farm recently offered a class on “Four-Season Harvesting.”

What is “Four-Season Harvesting”?

The idea of “Four-Season Harvesting” is allowing people to cultivate fruits and vegetables year-round from their home gardens so they do not to rely solely on the grocery store.  John Hemmerle, garden manager at Gorman Heritage Farm said, “Cold hearty veggies taste better when it’s colder.” With this method, people will now have a better understanding of what pesticides are in their food because they will be the ones growing it.  Phil Erdeljohn, a young male participant, said, “My grandma used to spray the tomato plants with soapy water to get rid of the bugs off the plants.”

Butter Lettuce

A head of butter lettuce that is ready to be harvested from the hoop house at Gorman Farm (photo by Christina Thompson 2012)

How do fruits and vegetables survive the winter months?

“Protection:  moisture and wind will destroy your plants, not the cold,” said Hemmerle.  So, what is the best remedy?  In a book called Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman, he writes: “…I suggest two (4-foot by 8-foot) cold frames per family…I will make a strong suggestion with respect to layout.  Your cropping area, whatever shape, should be easily divisible.  I want to encourage the small succession plantings that characterize a four-season garden.  They are the best way to maintain a continual supply of vegetables.”  Hemmerle, “I suggest hoop houses and row cloth for protection.”  With the “solar winter”(6 weeks before and after the Winter Solstice), the plants will go dormant and not grow, but they will remain green and harvestable.

Planting raised beds with cold frames or using row cloth to cover small crops seems like the most economical idea for people with small homes and little land.  Apartment dwellers could make a fully enclosed cold frame and have vegetables year-round as well. Erdelrjohn said, “I cannot wait to have my own home because I want to be able to use what I learned in the class to have my own organic and sustainable garden.”

One of the raised beds growing in the hoop house at Gorman Farm (photo by Christina Thompson 2012)

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