Sunday, March 6, 2022

An Invitation to the Silver Lake Community:
Shop local, shop organic: New York second only to California 
in organic farmland

By KORI SCIANDRA, ksciandra@batavianews.com

Organically farmed products are in high demand among New Yorkers, with 323,081 acres of organic farmland farmed throughout New York State. This accounts for 4.68 percent of all farmland. This indicates, “NYS has the second largest organic farmland share in the United States,” according to a new report by the USDA at Commodity.com — a level second only to California.

Organic dairy products are at the top of the list, leading with $1.5 billion of $10 billion in annual sales, with chicken sales not far behind at $1.1 billion.

According to the USDA survey, organic food sales have more than tripled since 2008. Among those farms helping to provide a viable organic food source is Porter Farms CSA, in Elba, which is a fourth-generation, family-operated vegetable farm.

Porter Farms, which was founded by Jack and Dorothy Porter with focus on raising livestock, now specializes in organic produce, such as beets, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, eggplant, leeks, peppers and more.

After raising six children (Steve, Mike, Bess, Julie, Bea, and Emily) on the farm, Jack and his sons, Steve and Mike, began transitioning the farmland to certified organic in 1990 as they now farm 500 acres.

“Our first field was certified in 1990, making us the first farm in Western New York to be certified. My grandpa was instrumental in determining the criteria for certification of an organic field, and my dad was a board member of the Organic Farming Research Foundation,” said Katie Porter Metzler, who manages the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, greenhouses, and crop production for Porter Farms.

Though her father Steve, her Uncle Mike, and Grandfather have passed, Katie and her family members still manage and operate certified organic farmland with the majority of their crops grown at the main farm on Edgerton Road, in Elba.

“I think organic farming is in such high demand because consumers are focusing on where their food comes from and how it is produced. The amount of organic farms in the United States has grown significantly since we were first certified in 1990, therefore the amount of goods that consumers can purchase has also increased. Organic foods have become more visible as a result,” said Katie.

To qualify and maintain certified organic, Porter Farms must be compliant with National Organic Standards.

“...Each year we submit our application to be certified and an inspector visits our farm. We must maintain very detailed records to show our inspector — what seeds were purchased, when and where we planted them, and any amendments that were added into our soil. The inspector checks buffers between our fields and conventional farms to ensure that pesticides are not running off or blowing into our fields. A big part of our organic certification is ensuring that we rotate our crops from field-to-field each year. This rotation helps to maintain soil fertility and decrease pest pressure. We also cannot use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides and rely on our crop rotation, plastic mulching, and cultivating to suppress weeds,” said Katie.

Porter Farms sells their organically grown produce through their local CSA.

“…When individuals sign up for our season, they are essentially signing up to share the costs, risks and bounty of growing food in an environmentally-friendly fashion. CSA participants, through their membership, help pay for seeds, greenhouse supplies, irrigation supplies, equipment maintenance, fuel, labor, etc. In return, our farm provides 20 weeks of fresh, certified-organic produce throughout the growing season,” said Katie. “We also sell some produce, our naturally fed beef, and other products in our on-site farm store.”

Registration for the 2022 season is open. A large bag of produce includes six to 10 different vegetables, which varies each week. Though the purchase of organic produce can be expensive, there are ways to purchase healthy, fresh, locally grown produce on a budget.

“...One recommendation I have for consumers to purchase certified organic products in a cost effective way is to join a CSA program. For about $20 per week, our CSA customers receive 8 to 10 varieties of our organic vegetables. Whatever is ripe and ready to be harvested can be found in our shares. If we have a bounty harvest, we harvest as much as possible to include in our shares. 

For instance, last year we gave out a ton of green beans over the course of three weeks. We knew it was a lot of beans all at once, but we provide recipes, storage tips, and preservation ideas so our members can get the most out of their share. We often get emails and messages from members in late winter saying that they just used up the last of their winter squashes, onions, etc. that we gave out throughout the season,” said Katie.

For more information, visit porterfarms.org, email csa@porterfarms.org, or call (585) 757-6823.

“I would encourage people to focus on supporting any local farm, whether that be conventional or organic. Buying local not only decreases the carbon footprint of your fruits and vegetables, but it also keeps money right here in [the GLOW counties]. There are so many wonderful family-owned farms and markets right in our backyards and I would encourage people to support them when they can,” said Katie.

For more information about organic farmland, see the full report from the USDA at https://commodity.com/blog/most-organic-farms/. Check back here for further opportunities and additional information.

1 comment:

  1. We are in conversations with Porter Farms about a category of CSA membership for the 10-week summer season (the first weekend in July through Labor Day weekend) with a weekly Friday afternoon delivery to The Institute of fresh, organic, locally grown produce. If you're interested in knowing more, email: silverlakearts@gmail.com

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