A unique and viable approach to establishing local food self-reliance and building stronger communities.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Kale joins the "Dirty-Dozen' list: and How to Grow Your Own Kale

Kale - a generous plant!
Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes the findings of their analysis of concentrations of farm-chemicals in popular produce. This CNN article goes into more detail about this year's study. Unfortunately, kale and collards - two of the most nutrient-dense foods available, have made it onto the list again.
Below is a  a re-post of an article we published back in 2019 with other useful links on the topic of farm chemicals in food and some tips on growing your own garden-greens. If you're local and have some garden-space to add some kale, chard or collards, let us know soon so we can start some "starts" for you.

The re-post:
In recent weeks (April 2019) we've seen several headlines announcing that kale has made it onto the "Dirty Dozen" list for the first time in ten years.  The "Dirty Dozen" list is compiled each year by testing thousands of samples of fruits and vegetables from different sources to see which have highest concentrations of herbicides and pesticides LINK. And the farm chemicals are not just showing up on the vegetables themselves, studies have shown that, people being tested have increasingly been found to have these chemicals show up in fluid samples such as blood and urine (see links below). 
It is unfortunate that kale has returned to the "Dirty Dozen" list as, in the past few years, it has shown a surge in popularity. Its recent following is not surprising as it tastes similar to broccoli and it is at the top of another list - The Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), that rates foods by their nutrient density. Kale (and collards) have the densest concentration of nutrients, per calorie, of a wide range of foods tested. (PDF of 72 tested foods) (explanation of chart). On the positive side of things, people who have switched to an all-organic diet have been able to reduce these chemical residues by as much as 90% in as little as two weeks (see links below).

Kale is the most nutrient-dense plant tested! (PDF of 72 tested foods)(explanation of chart)
So, if you'd like to incorporate more organically grown kale into your diet  and you're on a budget (we've noticed that prices for organic kale have really risen in the past few years...) perhaps you'd like to try and grow your own!

Kale is very easy to grow! Here's our POST on growing kale.
Grow your own kale: Kale is super-easy to grow and 2-4 plants will easily keep a family fed over the course of the summer. If your climate isn't too harsh you can grow a second crop that will produce food through the fall and winter too (though at a much slower rate). Here's our POST on growing kale.
Our CSA provides delicious, nutritious food May to November. More info HERE.
Or,  if you live in our area, you can join our CSA and receive a large box of delicious organic produce on a weekly basis - including copious amounts of green-leafy vegetables. We still have some CSA "shares" to offer. Over six-months of vegetables and fruits for $700. More info HERE.
How we grow our food at the Sharing Gardens: Because we are not a commercial farm, all our labor is provided by volunteers and we are under no pressure to produce food on a forced timeline to get it to market ahead of the other farmers in our area, our food is slow-grown, with less water-weight and hence more nutrient-dense. We fertilize primarily with compost derived from leaves, grass, weeds and food scraps, wood-ash from our wood-burning stove and with worm castings we harvest from the paths of our greenhouses LINK. We do not use commercial fertilizers. The wood-ash and the composted tree-leaves both provide re-mineralization of our soils because the tree-roots pull up minerals from deep within the soil. Without forcing our plants to grow fast with high-nitrogen fertilizers, or animal manures, they are more resistant to diseases and insect infestations that are caused, in part, by the thinner cell-walls of plants forced to grow unnaturally quickly.

Or, if you live in our area and would like to eat the kale we donate to Monroe's Food Pantry, you can shop weekly for free at the South Benton Food Pantry (some income-criteria required).

Sign posted at the Food Pantry to encourage more kale-eating.
Related links:

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Gallery of Gratitude-Garden Update

Hello folks, Spring has sprung here in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon. Oh sure, we could still get some frosts but daffodils and crocuses are blooming, hazelnut trees are casting their pollen to the wind and some of our Asian pear trees actually have buds opening (we hope they can hold off till the pollinators begin to fly in earnest). 

With all these signs of spring, can summer, with its luscious, ripe tomatoes be far behind?

This post is an update about winter at the Sharing Gardens with a gallery of pictures to bring you our latest news.

We've begun hundreds of 'starts' in our raised-beds and many more in pots on our potting table. It won't be long before we're enjoying the very first spring-greens: lettuce, spinach and beet-tops, with enough to share with our supporting circle of volunteers and CSA members.


Summertime bounty - Sharing Gardens CSA

Speaking of our CSA, it looks like this is going to be our best season yet! Our raised beds have the most beautiful, fluffy, nutrient-dense soil. For the last two years, we have stopped using manures, other animal by-products and commercial fertilizers to create soil-fertility (veganic agriculture). Our food is slow-grown, without the use of any chemicals. Our gardens not only feed our CSA members and volunteers, and serve two food pantries but we provide habitat for much local wildlife as well. Last year, members' costs averaged out to be about $2.00/pound for some of the finest, freshest organically grown produce around. Our prices haven't risen in three years though the quality and variety of foods we offer has multiplied.

We still have a few spots left so let us know if you'd like to become part of the Sharing Gardens "family". (Pick-up sites in Junction City, S. Corvallis and at the Sharing gardens in Monroe). LINK to CSA

Mushrooms: We've been mixing "mushroom compost" (hardwood sawdust blocks impregnated with mycelium from various edible mushrooms) into our raised beds and potting mix. The compost is a by-product of a local, organic commercial mushroom growing company. The compost adds "tilth" to the soil, worms like to eat it and the mushrooms also provide a slow-release nitrogen in a form accessible to plants. A side-benefit is that we're having mushrooms fruiting right in our garden beds! The mushroom compost has been fruiting since January and we've grown and given away over 50 pounds of shiitake, oyster and chestnut mushrooms. If this process continues into the warmer months, we should have plenty of mushrooms to continue to share.

Blocks of mycelium-infused sawdust (rt) are shredded and mixed into our raised beds.

Chris and Jim sifting oyster-mushroom blocks.

Chris harvesting oyster mushrooms.

Here's an oyster mushroom coming up in a patch of onion plants! We also have chestnut and shiitake mushrooms fruiting.

Our latest greenhouse is done! We've named it the Phoenix because it's made almost entirely from salvaged materials, many of which came from our neighbors the Dillards, who went through a period of construction and re-landscaping on their land in 2019. They gave us all the cinder blocks we needed and much of the lumber for the arches.

Framing the Phoenix greenhouse. All materials, with the exception of some lumber, screws and hinges are salvaged and re-purposed.
The Phoenix was the pet project of Chris and our friend Donn Dussell. They started work on it in late fall and just finished it this month. It will extend our growing season both earlier and later. With our two other larger greenhouses, we now have approximately 3,000 square/feet of greenhouse space!

Though we didn't document all the steps for making this style of greenhouse, we do have a step-by-step guide to making a greenhouse out of a carport frame. Here's the link.

Donn, leveling the cinder-block base.

Chris and Donn carrying trusses.

...installing cross-pipes salvaged from Barbara Standley's nursery.
Inside the Phoenix. Raised beds all around the sides and a wide bed in the middle. The grass clippings and leaves are spread in the paths which become worm-compost which we harvest in the fall. See post on how we do this.

A beautiful early-morning view from the backside (north) of the Phoenix.

We'd like to expand our group of volunteers this year. Volunteering provides a hands-on experience in growing food in a healthy, sustainable way. We have activities for all levels of interest and abilities but would especially like to find a few committed folks with strong backs and the flexibility to participate in some of the more rigorous aspects of growing food. LINK to volunteering.

Come, join the fun at the Sharing Gardens!

We have so much to be grateful for!
Thank you to the many donors who are already making this a year of abundance. In addition to those mentioned earlier in this post, thanks to:

John Kinsey for the hundreds of pounds of compost he makes in his giant worm bins and the coffee grounds he gathers each week in town. Here he is in his Elephant garlic patch.

Catherine Henry - for all the thoughtful ways she supports the project (most recently: seed donations)!  

Becky Bauer - for all her help processing produce to be dehydrated,  taxi service to dental appointments, for friendship and all the other support for us and the project. 

Cathy Rose (left), though a woman of modest means, always extends herself graciously with generosity. This year she's pledged $10/month through an auto-payment program with PayPal. Every month when we receive the notice that its been deposited to our account, it brings a smile to our faces. It's like a little gem of generosity

A small thing, but the South Benton Food Pantry continues to allow us to put the Garden's trash in their bins as needed. Thanks, Janeece (program manager) for this service.

And last but not least David Roux and Dallice Drake made a donation of $250 to help us make healthy food available to those most in need in our community.

And remember: “We may need a doctor, a priest, a policeman, and a lawyer a few times during our life. But we need a farmer three times every day.”

Jazmin delivering veggies to the food pantry.