Organic Cast Iron

We call our line Bon Mot. Those are French words; that mean “the good word” or maybe “a clever twist on a word“. We know that you will want one. And, cast iron is certainty sustainable and non-GMO, but is it organic. Well, yes if organic grapeseed oil is used to season it. So if you please, add cast iron to our Organic Product Verification list.

Doesn’t it look happier too?  When first seen, this piece was sitting in that old dingy room way in the back of the store hid away on the bottom self. A little seasoning makes a different, and that was quickly reflected in the cast iron. And so, one might say it responds organically.

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Tickled Spicy Red

We are delighted, as in we are tickled pink (or maybe better yet spicy Red) when we get feedback from our customers. This comment was made about our Ohman’s Red, a local heirloom garlic originally from the Milan, Italy region.

We have a camp near Brookland and this was the first year I ever attended Frosty Hollow Herb Festival in early August. I bought some of your garlic. It is by far the best garlic I have ever tasted and cooked with ever! I hope you ship your products or I will make it a point to contact and pick up when I am in Potter. By far no comparison to any garlic I have ever used.  — Krista S.

Pictured here is the Eco Garlic Pack of select bulbs of Ohman’s Red grown locally on our Organic Farm.


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Finding Lost Treasure

Old "Wild" Garlic Find

Old “Wild” Garlic Find

What you see here is a recently discovered wild garlic. I search the countryside looking for wild garlic to cultivate. Well, it’s not actually wild garlic. You see this area has all of these old abandon farms around hereabouts and at one time they all had a garlic patch. That was in the 1920’s or 1930’s when the small family farms flourished in this area. Now not so much, mostly weeds and thickets with a few semi-productive hay fields and there are some, but not many commercial snap bean and wheat fields that rule the day. Amazingly, some of these old garlic varieties have found a way to sustain themselves mostly though the spread of their aerial bulbils. They have held their ground against the weeds admirably for all these many years. Although, as you see here the underground bulbs don’t develop into large bulbs due to the weed competition and the overcrowding of the cloves trying to re-grow each year in the same spot.

This one appears to me to be a porcelain hardneck due to the many small bulbils on the seed stem. All of the other old garlic finds have been of the rocambole variety (and have looked quite similar to each other). So, I will replant the tiny cloves of this porcelain find and grow it back to its formal glory. It will likely take a few years of replanting in a cultivated garden to get them to produce a marketable sized bulb.

Many of these garlic probably originated in Europe and were brought here by Immigrants who came here to work in lumber industries during the logging era boom in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some of them could of been brought here by the migrating settlers mostly from New England moving west during the mid and early 1800’s. Who knows but they taste so good, and are like finding lost treasures to me.

And yes you are right, it would be far easier to just buy a commercially available garlic that already produces a grand bulb; say like, that huge imposter they call elephant garlic. But, it totally lacks any of that true spicy garlic taste, because  it’s a phony.  I’ll stay true to the cause, and grow my local heirlooms that I know taste the best. And, they will produce a nice sized bulb when given some time in a garden to reestablish their rightful Terroir (sense of place) in these native soils where they have endured for so long.

It has been shown (Genetic Diversity among U.S. Garlic Clones) that there are very few truly different strains of garlic, speaking DNA-wise. However, we agree that garlic (hardnecks are what we grow) responds to the environment and garlics that thrive in some locations will do very poorly at others dependent upon local environment (soil, rainfall, winter/spring coldness, latitude, altitude and cultural practices, for some given examples). So, we believe that by finding these old garlic strains, that have strived years of neglect, provides us with a valuable natural-selection process that has already been done for us.

Below is shown a Hardneck Garlic Story Board, and yes it’s literally on a board. To follow along, the story goes from left to right and then becomes a circle or the wheel-of-life that can sustain itself forever. The mature garlic plant produces aerial bulbils on top of long stems that get dispersed ideally several feet in all directions to spread its growing area. The garlic aerial bulbils grow a round which is an underground bulb that has only a one-clove bulb. This garlic round doesn’t produce a top-set of aerial bulbils. The second-year the garlic round will produce a bulb that has a few small cloves and a stem that has a top-set of aerial bulbils. Each year thereafter, each clove in the garlic bulb will attempt to produce an individual bulb of cloves and a top-set of aerial bulbils. And, if given a good growing spot (not too weedy and favorable soil conditions) the garlic plant will produce larger underground bulbs. However, since the “wild” garlic is in an uncultivated condition, these cloves will become too crowded trying to regrow in the same spot each year. So as a result, the aerial bulbils become the main propagation method over the long-run growing under the “wild” uncultivated conditions.

Garlic Wheel Of Life

Garlic Wheel Of Life

Now to wrap things up, let’s discuss the garlic’s third propagation method. Look closely at the picture (shown below) of the aerial bulbils stem with the bulbils removed. Notice that there are some very small flowers growing in between where the bulbils form. Those flowers can potentially produce True Garlic Seeds under certain conditions. Garlic TGS is somewhat an advanced topic for us, and we are just starting to explore this subject. Here is a link to click and learn more about TGS.

Garlic Flowers

Garlic Flowers




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And We Have Garlic!

“One rule in life”, he murmured to himself. “If you can smell garlic, everything is all right.” Author: J.G. Ballard

IMG_7002 (2)

The Fresh Garlic is Under the Gooey Cheese

Yum, Yum – Fresh Garlic Pizza. In fact, this garlic in the pizza pie is so fresh that it began its day in organic soil. 

Here’s our pizza making tips. First make your own dough is the only way to go. If you don’t make the dough, then all is for naught.  Second, invest in a quality heavy-pizza baking pan that heats quickly and cooks evenly. Add a pizza stone for cutting the pizza. For the red sauce (pizza rossa) which is what we like; make it with just tomato puree and nothing else.  For toppings, use the seasonal ingredients that are available LOCALLY (fresh garlic, garlic scapes or Shiitake mushrooms are some of our favorites). Lastly, bake the pizza with just the dough, tomato sauce and the topping for about 10 minutes, then add mozzarella cheese on top, and continue to cook until the cheese melts and becomes bubbly ooey gooey with an extra crisp crust.

Now, back to the garlic. Freshly harvested garlic has a water-chestnut texture (lots of moisture) and is something special. When you can get fresh garlic and it’s becomes that special ingredient that you can add as a pizza topping. This week, we began our garlic harvest. This is Ohman Red, grown by Carl Ohman in East Smethport for many years, and originally from Milan, Italy.

We’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. We’ll be bringing garlic to the Frosty Hollow Herb Festival  and the Potter County Farmers Market soon. Until then, we’ll end by saying “arrivederci”.


Harvested Garlic (Select Bulbs for Replant Stock)



Garlic Harvest Bulbs for Market




Garlic Harvest in Drying Rack


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Organic Inspector Training

inspector reportThe Spring 2016 issue of The Inspectors’ Report has an article of local interest on page 16.  It tells of the high level of  training that is needed to obtain an working organic inspector status with USDA accredited certification agents. With first-hand knowledge of the narrative, the article is reprinted here for our blog readers.

The IOIA Inspector’s Report  Volume 25 – Number 2 – Spring 2016



Pursing the Right Course by Alvie Fourness

Last month, I attended the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) Organic Crop Inspection training held at Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. IOIA gave a training session by trainers Margaret Scoles and Jonda Crosby that was true to the IOIA mission to promote consistency and integrity in the organic certification process. There were 25 participants who attended from several states around the country including California, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Kentucky to name a few, and one participant was from Canada. And, there was me coming from north-central Pennsylvania.

It was a demanding five day event with an abundance of class work, homework assignments and exercises. The highlight of the training came on Thursday with a mock inspection (a real-world scenario) of a 500 acre farm in organic production of wheat, corn and soybeans. Our class group was led by organic inspector, Doug Raubenolt at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). It was a spot on learning experience, as Doug provided us with much valuable guidance and mentoring. The farm inspection consisted of over three hours of information gathering and questioning the farmer about his practices and the farm’s organic system plan. After the farm inspection, it was back to the Deer Creek Lodge to debrief the inspection so as to get started writing the individually-written inspection reports that were due by 8 am the next morning. Much thought when into it; looking back through my notes where I jotted down my observations at the farm. And, much time was considered necessary for me to sort through the pages of written data gathered for the report. And then, there were the CFR Part 205 requirements to address and relate to the farm maps, fields, buffers and farm practices contained in the farmer’s organic system plan. My endeavor was to report the necessary information making the report complete, fair and accurate. I mostly finished the report by 2 am that night. Making it a point to awaking early enough in the morning to make some last-minute corrects and changes, somehow I met the submittal time.  And the kicker was that the final exam started at 9 am on Friday morning. It took me the full three hours to finish the exam. In a seemly short flash of time, the course came to conclusion. And then, I was on my way driving back home to Pennsylvania after finishing one very tough course.

The course was not an easy one. The next steps to complete the training will be a few shadow inspections with an organic inspector mentor, where I go with an inspector on an inspection; and watch and learn. Then, finally an inspection or two where I actually conduct the inspector while being observed by the inspector mentor. That will then, if all goes well, complete the necessary training to become an organic inspector. Of course, then there are additional courses available for the taking that cover other organic categories such as process handling and livestock operations. Maybe these IOIA courses will become future purses of mine if I find this sort of work gainful. Let’s leave it as it’s too early to know for sure.

One might wonder; why one would want to be an organic inspector. It’s a fair question because it’s not an easy job. One important reason is that there is a need. The Organic Matters magazine published by the Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) gave the follow data in the Fall 2015 edition, for a regional perspective to this need:

“Pennsylvania remains a powerhouse of organic production, maintaining its number three ranking with $3.13 million in organic “farmgate” sales, an increase of 47 percent. New York comes in at number seven with $1.64 million. In number of organic farms, New York ranks 3rd, with 917, and Pennsylvania are 5th, with 679. Additionally, the survey shows the potential for more growth with approximately 5,300 organic producers (39 percent) reporting that they intend to increase their organic production in the United States over the next five years. Another 688 farms with no current organic production are in the process of transitioning into organic agriculture production.”

An observation noted during the farm inspection for the IAOA course captures the above trends in increased organic production: Six (6) additional farms in the area were in transition to organic practices lessening the number for field buffers needed on the organic fields; thereby lessening the risk of contamination across neighboring farm boundaries. So it turned out that on my first farm inspection assignment, I got to verify a national trend that I was very pleased to see.

And also interestingly, while I was at the conference on Tuesday of that week, our farm’s updated organic certificate and Organic Product Verification (OPV) were sent to us arriving by email. The paperwork had the updated PCO logo. So, we also received a new copy of our farm’s organic certificate along with this year’s update. This timely correspondence gave me the added assurance coming when it did, that I was on the right path, and pursing the right objectives at the right time.

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What’s Cooking at Wooleylot

We have things going on. We have a great looking fall-planted garlic crop inter-planted with winter squash. Plus, a recently planted potato field. In the Potter County soil, we are growing certified organic crops with a solar charge from the warming seasonal sun.

  • Arc of Hardneck Garlics (four kinds of local heirlooms)
  • North Georgia Candy Roaster (Cherokee tribes in the southern Appalachians cherished this squash for its ability to withstand winter frost)
  • Potatoes including the following fingerlings: Russian Banana, Red Thumb, Magic Molly, Rose Finn Apple and Pinto; and plus some King Harry.

And, in an experimental sprit, we have the following crop trials:

  • Glenn Hard Red Spring Wheat
  • Garnet Chile Potatoes (developed in 1853 by the Reverend Chauncy E. Goodrich)
  • White Flint Corn (thrived  in the Americas before Columbus)
  • Seneca Pumpkins (also an 1000 year seed)
  • Mohawk Potato Beans (another an 1000 year seed)
  • Several New Potato Varieties (grown from botanical potato seeds also known as True Potato Seed)
  • Several rootstock apple grafts, including many early heritage like Empire, Spitzenburg, Swaar, Tompkins King, Yellow Belle fleur,  Westfield Seek No Further, Winter Greening, Golden Grimes and Cortland. And some other favorites like Pendragon, Niedwetzkyana, Famuse, Nutmeg Pippen, Hooples Antique Gold, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Sweet Caroline, Pink Pearl and Cornish Gilliflower.

This is a partial list of things, but you get the picture.


Garlic Inter-planted With Winter Squash

Garlic Inter-planted With Winter Squash



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Synthetic Inputs Explained

Generally it can be said that certified organic produce is grown without synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. However, there are some synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production. Here is a picture of one of our certified organic garlic beds. Can you find any synthetic inputs in the this picture?

Certified Organic Garlic

Certified Organic Garlic

Well, there are two. The first one is the sticky trap. It’s allowed as an insecticide. The Pennsylvania  Department of Agriculture is setting sticky traps for the Allium Leafminer. It has infested leeks and onions in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania; the 1st confirmed infestation of that pest in the western hemisphere. We are monitoring our field. This is really not good news to hear, and we are during our part to monitor for this new pest. The stinky traps were collected this week (no report back yet), and the PA Dept. of Ag person did mention that the leafminer has also been recently found in Dauphin, Delaware, Chester, and Lehigh counties. So, that’s more bad news. The second synthetic is  the shredded paper. It’s allowed as a herbicide or weed barrier. Newpaper or other recycled paper can be used as mulch with the annotation that it must be without glossy or colored inks. The Coudersport Elementary School 6th grade class runs a recycling program during which they shred white school paper at the rate of five to six 30-gallon bags per week. In order to keep this program going, they needed a source to take the shredded paper for free twice per month.  We use the shredded paper as mulch for garlic plants.  We all can agree there is a definite benefit from reusing paper products, which reduces costs and the need for their disposal in overcrowded landfills. In the above picture, in between the garlic beds are winter rye. This is an example of a non-synthetic or living mulch. The idea is to mow the winter rye cover later in the spring and use the clippings as mulch for the garlic. Then, we will run a furrow down the middle of the mowed winter rye strips and plant the Georgia Candy Roaster squash later in May or ealy June. The cut winter rye will also provide a layer of mulch under the squash, and act as a natural weed barrier. And, finally here is a picture of the students participating in the Coudersport Elementary School 6th grade class recycling program. This is a very worth well program, and we are very happy with the results.

Paper Shredding Program

Paper Shredding Program


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