Potato Eye Beholder

On rare occasion, we are lucky enough to find that “one in a million” type like this unusually shaped King Harry potato.  Do you think that it has grown into an odd shape or does he resemble a valentine heart? It all in the eye of the beholder that gets to decide what is beautiful.


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Thirteen Inspections Logged

The Fall 2016 issue of The Inspectors’ Report has an article of local interest on page 19.  It tells of the accounts and insights from a real-life USDA organic inspector. With first-hand knowledge of the narrative, the article is reprinted here for our blog readers.

The IOIA Inspector’s Report  Volume 25 – Number 4 – Fall 2016

Organic Inspector at Work

Organic Inspector at Work

Last spring, I attended the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) Organic Crop Inspection training held at Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. You might have read about this in the spring edition (Volume 25 – Number 2) of the IOIA Inspector’s Report [1]. This article is a follow-up to that article and chronicles the story line from the course completion to the point of performing farm inspections on my own.

Once one completes the IOIA Basic Crops training course, the next task at hand is the Mentored Organic Inspector Apprenticeship. Anyone who is thinking about an apprenticeship should keep in mind a few important things. First, the inspectors who have enough experience to be good mentors are probably very busy with their own inspection assignments. So, even though they might want to help, they can’t always do so. There is definitely a need to be patience and understand that if someone isn’t able to help mentor you right way; it’s probably because of constraints beyond their control. With that said, I must say that for me, it took longer than I had hoped. But, after having applied a little bit of patience, it did happen.

My apprenticeship consisted of four mentored inspections. The first two were in mid-September. Two different inspectors were shadowed on these inspections for a look at variety of techniques. These first shadowing inspections were filled with awe and admiration at seeing the inspectors perform their work. So here, my role as the apprentice was only to watch and learn. On my third mentored inspection, I was given the seed search verification and crop audit tasks to do at the inspection, which I managed to handle satisfactory. In fact, it felt good to actually contribute something to help my mentor.

And finally that day came in the second week of October; my first inspection shadowed by the mentoring inspector. As it turned out my first inspection was a new client (not usually done but time was of the essence) who was requesting certification of 180 acres of hay and pasture. I said a short prayer, “Please God, don’t let me screw this up!” My prayers were answered, and I was given the go ahead to start inspecting on my own. My mentor gave me the following recommend: “The reports you submitted to me are very thorough in fact I hope I am not held to that standard. I would recommend that you are more than capable to carry out solo inspections.”

Ok, so it wasn’t so much just hope and prayer that got me though this. My IOIA training gave me the sturdy foundation that I needed to have a basic grasp of the task at hand. The accumulation of knowledge gained from the abundance of class work, homework assignments and exercises administrated at the IOIA training played a large part in this success. My mentor’s tutoring came in very useful, too. The mentor’s recommendation to make it a practice to review the Materials Used Form for inputs that are allowed with restrictions and then to check during inspection that all of those restrictions are being followed and documented appropriately was most helpful.

 Just so you know everything did not go perfectly smooth. So, the basic plan that day was to meet with my mentor ahead of time, about one-half hour before the scheduled inspection time so that we could drive to the farm together. Inspection start time was scheduled at 8 am, and the meet-up time was to be about 7:30; so that put us both on the road starting out around 5 that morning. In Pennsylvania, we have a whitetail deer population. And as it so happened, my first inspection date aligned precisely with the start of the deer’s rutting season. This means that the deer are especially active, and are prone to cross the highway at all times of the day or night. So as you might have already guessed, my mentoring inspector hit a deer driving to the inspection. Yup, he had to go back home to “inspect” for damage before continuing. So needless to say we arrived to the inspection about an hour late. And so, this serves as example of what can go wrong in this sort of line of work. The good news is that the farmer applicant was on his way to growing organic hay this year, and plans to transition to an organic dairy next year.

After the apprenticeship, I earned the “allowed to do inspections on my own” status. This was truly good and well worth the wait and time spent, I felt. For one thing, I can schedule my farm visits as I wish and go directly to the farms without having to coordinate with a mentoring inspector. My plan to start was straightforward and simple – begin with a couple of nearby hay and pasture farms in order to wring out my techniques and hone my inspector skills.

As fate would have it, that idea didn’t go as planned. My first solo inspection came in as an Urgent Inspection Request from a 400 acre Corn, Soybean and Small Grain farmer who had added a few acres of corn, some of which had been harvested and kept segregated on a wagon.  The farmer was not able to continue harvesting until the review of the inspection report. Right of the bat, it was baptism by fire, so to say. In spite of this, I was able to satisfactory complete the assignment and provide the inspection report in a timely manner. The mock farm inspection during the IOIA training hit the mark as the wheat, corn and soybeans production on that teaching exercise prepared me well for that of the farm that needed the urgent inspection.

In hind sight, the Urgent Inspection Request was probably the best learning experience one could have. After that, the remaining assignments didn’t look all that difficult. But as I soon learned, each farm had a particular element of uniqueness and every one required special attention to the details during the inspection process. And in that way, this added to the appeal of the job as I realized that no two inspections will ever be exactly the same. Each one, you see is truly a unique experience. So with that being the case, this is where I will end, after having successfully completed twelve solo inspections in my first year of being an organic inspector.

[1] IOIA Inspector’s Report (Volume 25 – Number 2) page 16

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Organic Inspector Onboard

We are pleased to announce that our organic inspector apprenticeship is now complete. We are experiencing that fine feeling called satisfaction of achievement or maybe as it was once said of having that know-how training “under one’s belt”.

Our mentoring inspector reports back; “The reports you submitted to me are very thorough in fact I hope I am not held to that standard. I would recommend that you are more than capable to carry out solo inspections.”  We have to say that this good result was in large part  due to the excellent tutoring provided by both of the mentoring inspectors that guided us during the training period.

So with that done, we are scheduling inspections at the rate of 5 or 6 per week, so as to complete the amount assigned by the requested completion date.


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Rainy Day Review

The fall rains are upon us, and what has been the droughty Freeman Run with a barely flowing trickle of water all summer-long is now about to flood its banks; and so a good time to talk some about rubber boots. We in Potter County, Pennsylvania certainly know about mud. So, here goes one farmer’s opinion.

My Muck Chore boots have all but fallen apart. So, it’s time to break in some new rain boots. Now about Muck, in my opinion; those boots <insert a word the rhythms with muck here>. They were heavy and clunky, and the neoprene material was very stiff and prone to cracking. Ok, they are a few years ago, but they began to breakdown too quickly, and leaked soon after they were put into service.

In fact, being so dissatisfied with having wet feet for way too long thanks to those “ugly Mucklings“, hence we have this post. The “ugly Mucklings” are being replaced with a pair of Le Chameau “Anjou”. The Anjou are certainly lighter in weight and less awkward feeling on the feet. So, that is the first positive thing about them. The second good thing is that the uppers are a vulcanize Natural rubber (not neoprene which is a synthetic rubber) so that makes them more flexible.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m not above wanting to look stylish, even while wading ankle deep in mud. So, can anyone deny that the The Anjou  boot is certainly a more fashionable boot? We think not. The Anjou  features a functional of tin-cloth trim and is a beautiful boot for the gentleman who opts for practical, but doesn’t mind a bit of country-squire flair thrown into the mix. Lastly, Anjou is a variety of pear that has a greenish skin. So, that’s a nicer ebullient name certainly better than Chore, which remains me that I have to do something.

New Green Pears

New Green Pears

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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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