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10 Reasons to Visit a Farmers Market

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, September 08, 2012
Farmers Markets are weekly markets where local farmers bring their freshly picked crops for sale to the public. Here are 10 reasons why you should shop your local farmers market:
  1. Save money! These days we all need to save money where we can, so why not get a superior product at a better price? Farmers markets are usually less expensive than buying the same, less fresh, produce at the grocery store. This is because the store has to pay the cost of transporting the produce from where it came from.
  2. The produce at a farmers market is freshly picked at the height of its flavor and nutrition! Food just tastes better when it is fresh; also the vitamin content of the produce begins to decrease the moment it’s picked.
  3. Support your local community and your local farmers by shopping at the farmers market. When you buy produce at the grocery store, it was probably shipped in from other states or even other countries!
  4. Fresh fruit and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients!
  5. Get your kids involved! Have them try samples and let them choose a new fruit or vegetable and let them help you prepare it for your meal or snack.
  6. Meet your local farmers and find out what crops are grown in your area at which time of the year.
  7. Create a “Healthy Eating Plate” with the produce purchased at the farmers market. You can get everything you need for balanced nutritious meals at the farmers market!
  8. Farmers often know new and inventive ways to prepare their produce, so ask them! They know the best and most delicious way to eat their produce!
  9. Be adventurous - try a new fruit or vegetable! There are many lesser known fruits and vegetables at the farmers markets that you cannot get at the grocery store. Have you ever tasted lobster mushrooms or passion fruit? Taste something new, you might like it!
  10. Farmers markets are easy to find – just look for the blocked off road or parking lot with all of the tents! Or, you can call your local city council or look up “your city name + farmers market” and you should be able to find the information online.
If you do not have a local farmers market, try shopping at a roadside produce stand. These stands sell many of the same fresh local produce you can find at the Farmers Market. Not a fan of farmer markets? You can still support local farmers by shopping at the stores that carry their produce. You can find Owyheee Produce onions at both Paul's and Treasure Valley Walmarts.  Sources
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4 Keys to Storing Your Home Grown Onions Like The Pros

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, August 11, 2012
Unlike many fruits and vegetables you grow in your garden that must be eaten, canned, or given way (as is the tradition in our family with zucchini), onions can last you for months on end.  On our farm storability is essential, as the Northwest supplies the entire US with 3/4's of its onions for nearly 9 months of the year. Because of this we have perfected the art of storing onions. If you grow your onions at home, here are 4 Keys to Storing Onions like the Pros:   Key 1: Variety B by choosing the right onion for the job - varieties like Joaquin, Granero, and Barbaro.  Storage onions are lower in water content and have a higher pungency (before they are cooked) that helps them store.  In addition fertilizer levels, soil moisture levels, and harvest-time temperatures must be closely monitored. Key 2: Maturity The next important step of storability is the need to allow an onion to completely mature.  Oddly enough, that means watering and caring for the onions until the tops fall over and die. A mature and healthy onion will size to about 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter before this happens.  It is important not to get in a rush this process. If an onion is removed from the ground before the top turns brown you will lose as much as 25 percent of the plants growth potential.  This also reduces its storage life by not allowing it to utilize the nutrients and energy it has stored in its leaves.  Think of it like a tree, if you were to go out in early fall and pluck the tree's leaves off before they turned brown, it would only take a couple of years before you would have a dead tree on your hands.  Onions are the same. Key 3: Curing  The third key to storing onions is curing. This is done in two ways here on the farm.  The first and less common approach is to remove the onions from the ground, cut off the tops and placed them in burlap bags for 7-10 days. The added airflow also adds additional layers of dry protective skin.  Skin is another key to storability.  The second way this process is accomplished is by placing onions in large wooden bins inside buildings with large fans to blow air on the onions -  essentially doing the same thing as in the burlap bags, but without having to hope mother nature will play fair. Key 4: Location Last, the final key to making an onion last for months on end is a dark, dry, cool storage location with good airflow.  On the farm this means putting the bins in ambient cooled buildings with fans that run day and night.  Our average building stores 8 million pounds and allows us to store onions for up to 11 months straight!  At home this could be in the basement near a vent or doorway.  Just remember that onions need to breath so don't keep them in a plastic bag.  

Genetically Modified Crops: What's Your View?

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Friday, July 27, 2012
Genetically Modified Crops: A Cure for World Hunger or A Possible Health Risk? It seems there are always controversial issues in the news, but there aren’t many issues that cause as deep of an emotional viewpoint, as genetically modified (GM) farming does. GM, also called ‘genetically engineered’ or ‘transgenetic crops’, put simply is the location of genes with special traits (such as those conferring insect resistance or desired nutrients) and combining these genes with the DNA of a desired crop (food). As of 2010, 10% of the world’s crops planted were GM crops. While most GM crops are grown in North America, there has been rapid growth in developing countries in recent years. In 2011 approximately 16.7 million farmers and 50% of GM crops were grown in developing countries, 29 countries worldwide. As of 2011, the countries that grow most of the transgenic crops are: the United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkino Faso, Mexico and Spain. The US grows GM soybeans, cotton, corn and sugar beets and India is grows GM cotton. In 2002, India’s first yield of GM cotton crops was up an average of 42% over the previous years non-GM cotton crops. After which, was a drought in India that the genetically enhanced variant did not fair well through. To accommodate the harsh weather, drought resistant variants were developed and by 2011 88% of all Indian cotton was GM. Due to the drought resistant cotton and reduced losses to insects, India gained a well-documented economic boost from the GM crops. While the advantages of GM crops seem to be limitless, with all new technology there are risks, many of which are unknown, as this science is so new. Most of the controversy surrounding GM crops focus on: human and environmental safety, labeling and consumer choice, intellectual property rights, ethics, food security, poverty reduction, and environmental conservation.  Take a look at the benefits and controversies behind genetically modified crops: Benefits 1.    Crops
  • Enhanced taste and quality
  • Reduced maturation time
  • Increased nutrients, yields, and stress tolerance
  • Improved resistance to disease, pests, and herbicides
2.    Animals
  • Increased resistance, productivity, hardiness, and feed efficiency
  • Better yields of meat, eggs, and milk
  • Improved animal health and diagnostic methods
3.    Environment
  • “Friendly” bio-herbicides and bio-insecticides
  • More efficient processing
4.    Society
  • Increased food for growing populations
Controversies 1.    Safety
  • Potential human health impacts, including allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistant markers, unknown issues
  • Potential environmental impacts, including: unintentional transfer of transgenes through the cross-pollinatic to non GM crops and organic crops
2.    Access and Intellectual Property
  • Dominance of world food production by a few companies
  • Increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries.
  • Biopiracy, or foreign exploitation of natural resources
3.    Ethics
  • Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values
  • Tampering with nature by mixing genes in plants & vice versa
  • Stress for animal
4.    Labeling
  • Not mandatory in some countries (e.g. USA)
  • Mixing GM crops with non-GM products confounds labeling attempts
5.    Society
  • New advances may be skewed to interests of wealthy countries
Some believe that GM crops aren’t that far off from what we we’re already producing. The thought behind that is that all crops have been genetically modified, whether it was done in a lab, over time, with chemicals, or on the farm. None of today’s crops are in their “original wild state”; all have been altered through domestication, selection and controlled breeding over long periods of time. What are your thoughts on GM crops? We want to leave you with a few questions –
  • Are we crossing an invisible ethical line with genetically manufactured foods?
  • Are GM foods safe for human consumption?
  • Should there be labeling of all GM foods and foods that use GM products?
  • Do you care if a product is GM or not?
  • Are you worried about the possibility of GM products causing us physical harm?

Family Legacy Continues at Owyhee Produce

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, July 21, 2012
Family is and always will be the foundation of Owyhee Produce. This July, Country Folk Grower featured a story on Owyhee Produce and the many generations that have graced this farm.  We are grateful to be featured in this awesome publication and are excited to share with you another glimpse into our family and our farm. Family legacy continues at Owyhee Produce - By Sally Colby When a young soldier returned from the Korean War in 1954, he decided to start farming on the side with his family. By the mid 1960s, that farmer, Owen Froerer, was farming on his own. Today, his grandson Shay Myers has taken the helm as general manager of Owyhee Produce in Nyssa, OR. “We started with about 30 to 50 acres and today we farm about 4,000 acres,” said Myers, comparing the farm’s start to the operation today. “What gave my grandfather a leg up in the early 1970s was mint. He put in a mint distillery and starting distilling mint for pure mint oil.” Myers says his grandfather has always looked for opportunity, and stepped forward to take advantage of the precise geographic area required to grow mint commercially. Through the 1980s, the facility was the largest mint distillery in Oregon. Although they are no longer the largest mint grower, Owyhee Produce harvests 800 acres of mint and supplies mint oil for a wide variety of mint-flavored products including chewing gum and toothpaste. “It’s really a specialty crop,” said Myers. “Mint is harvested twice a year, similar to the way hay is harvested. It’s cut in windrows, chopped and blown into sealable trucks that have an external heat source. The mint is taken to the Owyhee distillery for the steam extraction process that results in mint oil.” To read the rest of the article, click here. 

2012 Farm Bill: Impacts and Changes

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Friday, July 06, 2012
Right now the Senate is making amendments to a bill that has the potential to completely change the state of our rural economy. Earlier this summer, the United States Senate passed a new version of the 2012 Farm Bill. This bill, which originated over 80 years ago, has evolved from a program aimed to aid struggling farmers, to one of the most influential pieces of legislation in our nation. Because it recently passed in the Senate, we want to give you a quick recap of what this new bill means for farmers, citizens and our nation’s health. For more information on the history and inner workings of the Farm Bill, we suggest you visit our blog “Understanding the Farm Bill”   What does the Farm Bill cover? The name “Farm Bill” does not do this piece of legislation justice. In fact, around 80% of this bill has nothing to do with farms or farming. So why is it called the “Farm Bill”? The first farm bills were all about the farmers, then programs for food stamps and WIC were added in. Through the years politicians kept adding more and more programs to the Farm Bill until farming became a minor player in a major bill. Here is a partial list of what is included: -       Wildlife habitat promotion -       Rural internet access -       Nutrition programs -       Price supports and/or crop insurance for commodity crops -       Conservation programs that affect land, water and soil use -       Agricultural exports and food aid, including humanitarian assistance to other nations -       Food assistance programs for poor Americans – food stamps -       Direct and guaranteed loans to farmers and ranchers -       Forestry programs managed by the U.S. Forest Service -       Programs promoting renewable fuels such as ethanol -       Crop insurance and disaster assistance Changes From the 2008 Farm Bill: So far Senate leaders have agreed to consider 73 amendments. You can follow the specific votes here on this website. Sponsors of the 2012 farm bill claim that this new bill can potentially save taxpayers 23.6 billion over the next 10 years. But that figure represents less than 2.5 percent of the total cost of the bill, according to the New York Times.  One major change will involve a transition away from direct payments to farmers that were first issued in the 1990s. In the beginning direct payments were meant to streamline the process, but are now granted to the farmers regardless of what kind of year they had. "If they had a very difficult year they got the very same payment as if they had a bumper crop with fabulous prices," says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. Another noteworthy change to the Farm Bill is the cutting of funds to SNAP, 33 billion dollars to be exact. SNAP, which stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the program formerly known as food stamps. Cutting the funds to this program not only impacts food stamp recipients, but also children who receive free school lunches. Whether cutting money from SNAP is a good thing depends on your personal political views. There is also a chance that Congress will not be able to come to an agreement about the Farm Bill and we will not see a new one, but an extension of the 2008 version. While this is a temporary fix, there are a lot of programs that are nearing their expiration date and if they are not included into a new bill, they will cease to exist. What are your thoughts on the proposed changes to the Farm Bill? Have you been following the debates? Let us know by commenting below or share it with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Organic vs. Common Sense: The Common Sense Approach

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Wednesday, June 27, 2012
A few weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to speak at the America Culinary Federations Boise chapter.  I was asked to speak about some of the products Owyhee Produce grows and sells to the local market. With it being spring at the time, I thought they would be most interested in learning about asparagus – not the case at all. Instead, the chefs starting asking me questions right from the get go. I would answer one question only to be asked yet another. What did they ask me about? Well, most of the questions were simple ones about the basics of farming. But, there was one topic brought up that really surprised me and it had to do with organic production. Basically, the chefs expressed that what they wanted (and what their customers wanted) was a trustworthy source from which they could get their food;  someone they could trust to do their best to take care of the land (what we call the common sense approach.) They stated that organic food "is much less important today then it was 3-5 years ago".  The fact that they had this viewpoint surprised me and made me wonder if this viewpoint is a local phenomena, or if it something is happening all over the country. Organic is still popular and it will never go away, but if the chefs are any kind of leading indicator (which I would think they are) the common sense approach to farming may be gaining traction. To me organic farming is fine, but it is not the ONLY way to take care of Mother Nature.  In fact, in some cases these practices are less responsible.  Organic farming can actually have more significant negative impacts when compared to how we grow, using a common sense approach. Lets take onions as an example.  The average field on our farm yields about 100,000 pounds per acre while an organic farmer is, at best, going to see half those yields.  That means every input they use, such as diesel, labor, fertilizer, drip line, plastic mulch, and pesticides have at least twice the environmental cost. And yes, organic farmers do use pesticides, but we will save that for another blog (see pictures of organic pesticides below). That is why you pay more for organically grown produce by the way. So your organically grown onion may actually be worse for you and the environment when you take everything into account. I doubt this is the case with all crops, but with most specialty crops it is definitely the rule rather than the exception.  We must be educated in how we chose what we eat. I am glad that the food industry is starting to realize that, and these chefs gave me hope that more and more people are starting realize that health, clean produce does not have to come from organic growing methods. So the next time you are out grocery shopping for some fresh produce, please think twice before paying 3 times the amount for something labeled organic. You may just be wasting your money. In fact, there are 15 “clean” foods that you don’t have to buy organic – visit our blog for a list.  

10 Impressive Agriculture Apps

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, June 23, 2012
Today there are apps for everything – but none are quite as impressive as the agriculture apps available. From regulating soil conditions to monitoring crop progress, these apps are working to make farmers lives easier everywhere. Are there any apps you use that we left off the list? 1. Farm Futures Mobile from Pioneer. Offers access to news, weather, quotes, cash bids and more wherever you are. (Android, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad; soon on BlackBerry) 2. ArcGIS by ESRI. Extends the reach of a GIS from the office to the field. Users can query the map, search and find interesting information, measure distances and share maps with others. (iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone 7; available soon on Android devices) 3. FieldNET Mobile from Lindsay. Allows users to control and monitor their irrigation pivots from anywhere. The interface features real-time text alerts, water usage reports and more. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) 4. PureSense Irrigation Manager. Allows users to monitor their real-time field conditions and irrigation activity from their phones. (Android, iPhone) 5. SoilWeb. Provides GPS-based, real-time access to USDA-NRCS soil survey data. The app retrieves graphical summaries of soil types associated with the user's current geographic location. (iPhone) 6. KIS Futures. Allows users to track prices on commodity futures and options and gives a detailed snapshot of high, low, last and net change of multiple markets-options. (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) 7. Farm Progress Growing Degree Days. Measures the maturity of a crop by viewing current and past growing degree days data for a specific farm's location. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPod Touch) 8. Farmer's Partner. Lets growers input dozens of variables to create an overview of the farm operation. (Android) 9. Agriculture Regulations. Provides growers with complete text of Title 7 CFR, Agriculture and bookmark the particular rules that apply to their operation. (iPhone, iPad)  10. Weather Channel. Features customizable local weather applications, including an ag app where growers can access soil moisture conditions, precipitation reports, forecasts, wind speed and direction. (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

A Standing Ovation For You, Disney.

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, June 09, 2012
Disney is making history.  In both society and in many children’s lives, Disney is king. Their shows, movies and theme parks have been filling our lives with magic and wonder for decades.  Making fairytales come to life seems to be a lasting legacy for the company, but after their latest announcement they are shaping history in a new way. Earlier this week we shared an article on their recent decision to stop marketing junk food to children. A joint announcement by Disney and the White House promised to phase out the marketing of junk food on it’s television channels, websites and radio stations. This ban even includes Saturday-cartoons airing on the ABC stations owned by Disney. In addition to the ban on junk-food advertising, they are introducing the “Mickey Check” logo for food items meeting Disney’s nutritional standards. This logo will appear on Disney’ licensed grocery products, recipes on the companies website and food at their theme park. I believe this is the start of a major food-reform and I am absolutely enthusiastic about Disney’s decision for several reasons. Disney is a major network, with a lot of influence in both children’s lifestyle choices and in the entertainment industry; this is a major step in the fight against childhood obesity. Hopefully this will spark a desire among other networks to tighten their advertising requirements when it comes to children’s nutrition, if not for the sake of a healthier society than hopefully to keep up with a leading network like Disney. Also, this could potentially cause food companies to start producing healthier kid snacks, just to be able to advertise on networks like Disney and it's affiliate channels. Even Michelle Obama who is a huge advocate in the fight against child obesity praised Disney earlier this week. "Make no mistake about it - this is huge," she said. "Just think about it. Just a few years ago if you had told me or any other mom or dad in America that our kids wouldn't see a single ad for junk food while they watched their favorite cartoons on a major TV network, we wouldn't have believed you because parents know better than anyone else just how effective and pervasive those advertisements have become." I applaud the new changes that Disney is implementing and I not only encourage, but challenge others to follow in their footsteps.

6 Interesting Onion Claims - Facts or Just Plain Silly?

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, June 02, 2012
We’ve spent the past few days searching the vast world of the internet for posts, discussions and blogs on onions – and through this search we came across some very interesting claims about the benefits and various uses of onions. Here are 6 of the most interesting claims - we discuss whether they are fact, myth, legend or just plain crazy. 1. Raw onions when placed in our rooms help absorb bacteria or germs in the air, therefore preventing germs from entering our body. False and a little crazy. While onions have many health benefits to those who eat them, just setting one in your home does not place you in a magic bubble safe from all germs. 2.  Rubbing half an onion onto an insect bite will ease the pain because of anti-inflammatory properties in the onion’s enzymes. Popular legend. While this has never been proven scientifically, many home-remedy and alternative medicine websites list onions as an effective pain reliever for bites and stings.  This one may be worth trying out this summer. 3. Onions can be used as an insect repellent. This is another popular legend,  but one that many people insist works. While onions may help ward off bugs, there are no scientific studies to validate this claim. Myth or fact, we are sure that if you go home and rub an onion all over your body that you will succeed in repelling at least humans. 4. Eating one raw onion a day will make your teeth whiter. False. Completely false. Where are people coming up with these things? 5. An environmentally, clean way to clean your grill is by scrubbing it with an onion. Fact. Wipe your grill clean without the chemical waste by rubbing an onion against the grate of the grill. Scrubbing a halved onion faced downwards on a heated grate will remove the grime and grit without requiring the hard and frustrating scrubbing of a Brillo pad. Plus, it's an affordable green alternative that won't cause putrid smells like most chemicals do. That is, as long as you like the smell of onion. We’re guessing you do. 6. Rubbing onions on your head can cure baldness. False. There is no scientific proof that this works. We’re pretty sure if it did, that men would deal with the side effects of stinky onion head to get that luscious head of hair back. Have you heard any surprising claims about onions? Share them with us on our Facebook, Twitter or by commenting below!        

Four Recipes for Cooking Asparagus

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Friday, May 18, 2012

asparagus, cooking, recipes

  We love summer time – and even more, we love summer time vegetables. Asparagus is a great side dish for any meal, and there are tons of different cooking techniques to choose from. Here are four basic cooking techniques that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. Grilled Grilled asparagus is the perfect side dish for a summer meal. To prepare the asparagus start by breaking off any tough bottom ends. Place the asparagus in a baking pan, or any sort of container for you to put them  in and take them off the grill. Coat the asparagus with olive oil, lemon pepper and a dash of salt. Grill the asparagus spears on the grill for 5-10 minutes, until nicely charred and fork tender. Turn them every few minutes to brown evenly.  For those of you who do not like your vegetables to touch the BBQ, we suggest putting your asparagus in a vegetable basket. Roasted Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. First prepare asparagus by cutting off the tough ends and rinsing the pieces with water. Next, spread the asparagus out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Pat it as dry as you can, as you don’t want any water to steam and over cook the asparagus in the oven. Next, drizzle around 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil over the asparagus. Don’t skimp! After they are coating with olive oils, generously add your desired seasonings. We suggest a mixture of kosher salt, ground pepper and garlic. Now, roast the asparagus in the preheated oven for about ten minutes. Enjoy! For a twist – top the asparagus with balsamic vinegar before serving. Steaming Perfectly steamed asparagus has proven itself to be rather… tricky. Instead of trying to explain to you how to go about it perfectly, we found this fantastic how-to to share with you! Stir-Fry Stir-fried asparagus is always tasty – and is a great method to use when you want to cook up other vegetables along with the asparagus. We suggest adding onions and mushrooms. First prepare your asparagus by cutting off the tough ends and rinsing the pieces with water. Next, cut up ¼ of onion into small pieces (optional) Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions until tender. Stir in asparagus and seasonings of choice. We suggest trying diced garlic and lemon pepper. Saute the asparagus and onions together for 3-5 minutes, or until the asparagus reaches your desired tenderness. For a fun twist – try drizzling with teriyaki sauce before serving.    

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