By Tim Brelig and Kellie Diamond, skyfarmersmarket.com
Friday, July 6th, 2012 9:00 AM CST
“Dja get any rain?” is the common form of address between farmers and gardeners at this time of year, particularly in a relentless drought and heatwave like the one that’s enveloping us now.
The scattered showers and thunderstorms that we’ve had this week are a common summertime weather pattern. It’s a hit or miss affair. They leave some thankful for a bit of relief, while others remain high and dry, listening to the echo of thunder.
Plan to cool off with a fresh melon this weekend, one for right away and maybe another for later in the week. Shop around the market to find the different growers who have begun bringing cantaloupes to market. They’re the ones to ask when the watermelons will be here. (Not long now!)
Step away from the stove. We’ve got lots of fresh veggies for cool summer salads, dips, chilled soups, and grilling – Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Peppers, Eggplant, Onions and Garlic – this is when the quality and flavor of fresh local food really stands out.
There’s cool food for hot times this weekend at the SKY Farmers Market! Come early to beat the heat. The market opens at 7am.
See you there!
GMO: a “New” Buzzword for Farmers Market Customers
More and more we are hearing about Genetically Modified Organisms (or sometimes GEO – genetically engineered organisms). What does GMO mean, and as a farmers market customer, what should you know?
GMO seed is a big player in the conventional farming sphere. In the US in 2011, 94% of the soybeans and about 85% of the corn being grown (as well as other major commodity crops) were GMO varieties.
Basically, the crops have gene sequences from other organisms inserted into them for a particular purpose. In the case of soybeans, it is to make them resistant to Roundup – a commonly used herbicide – so the fields can be sprayed to kill the weeds without killing the crop. In the case of corn, there are Roundup-Ready varieties (herbicide resistant) as well as Bt varieties. The Bt varieties express Bacillus thuringiensis, a toxin affecting Lepidoptera (caterpillars) in every cell of the plant, so if a caterpillar eats them, it dies. Some corn varieties have both herbicide resistant and Bt traits engineered into them.
Although approved as safe by the USDA, some people prefer to avoid eating GMO food whenever possible. One way to do this is to purchase certified organic grains, as they are not produced with GMO seed and are usually tested for contamination by cross pollination from nearby GMO crops before being sold.
Since most farmers market customers are not purchasing grains at their market, it may seem a very safe place to buy food for those who wish to avoid GMO products and, for the most part, it is. There are very few vegetables which are genetically modified (or sometimes called transgenic). However, there are a couple to be aware of.
The first is summer squash. There are a few transgenic varieties of summer squash with gene sequences inserted for resistance to viral diseases. They can usually be recognized by a Roman numeral after the variety name – as in Dasher II.
The second major vegetable to be aware of is sweet corn. For the same reason as for field corn – resistance to caterpillars – there are some varieties of Bt sweet corn.
Because the Bacillus thuringiensis is expressed in every cell of the plant, Bt sweet corn will have almost no earworms in the ear. This is a HUGE thing! NO ONE likes worms in their corn, and Bt varieties will have few or none. So, the farmers often advertise them as “un-sprayed”, because they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals. Therefore, as a consumer, if you wish to avoid GMO’s, you need to be aware of variety names (Attribute and Performance series for sweet corn) and/or, ask the farmer. If it says it is unsprayed, and it is worm free, you might want to ask about growing practices.
You may already know that organic farmers have been using Bt for decades to help minimize caterpillar damage on crops – particularly brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. How is this use of Bt different?
When Bt is applied to a crop as a spray, it has a very short effective life on the plant leaf. Typically just a day or two. But when it is part of every gene of a plant, it doesn’t “disappear quickly”. Some research shows it persisting in the soil for months and also in the guts of bees (from the pollen) and earthworms (from crop debris).
Takeaway Information: A few GMO vegetable crops exist. Your best defense if you wish to avoid them is to know your farmer, and ask questions. At SKY Farmers Market, where the produce is always producer grown, not purchased from an anonymous wholesaler, that is an easy thing to do. So, Shop at SKY, on Fifth and High, Tuesdays and Saturdays, April – October.
GMO story written by Alison Wiediger of Au Naturel Farm is a founding member of the SKY Farmers Market. She writes and speaks frequently on issues related to sustainable agriculture.
JD Bakery and Cafe Serving Up Gold Rush Casserole, Baked Oatmeal with Peaches and Cream and Pancakes & Sausage Saturday at SKY Farmer’s Market. Fan their page and get down there Tue – Fri: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm and Sat: 7:00 am – 2:00 pm. They will serve the breakfast from 7:00 am till 12:00pm! Also, fan them on facebook for more updates. Also, fan SKY Farmer’s Market facebook page while you are at it.