August 21, 2012

The much awaited mid-summer abundance is in full effect as we head into late August. A wide spectrum of the warm weather crops such as tomatoes, bell peppers and some eggplant are on tap for the coming weeks.  We recently ramped up sowing seeds in our greenhouse and we are already prepping the soil with compost to get ready for fall transplanting and seeding.

Our water supply is holding out despite our meager winter rainfall. We’ve noticed some pressure from birds as they seek out leafy green nourishment. The main culprit seems to be quail going after very young seedlings. Things are very dry beyond the farm boundaries so our lush green fields are very attractive to critters right now.

Beth Terry, an unassuming blogger whose actions have been a huge source of inspiration for us spoke at Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Lab this past Sunday. For anyone who has been frustrated by the pervasiveness of plastic wrapped everything and an economy characterized by planned obsolescence, her talks, blog postings and new book,  Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too,  are all a much needed breath of fresh air.

Once we realize that each one of us can indeed make a difference, a sense of hope develops and an outflow of new ideas spring forth. We can’t just complain anymore because that’s not enough (it never has been), we have to take actions that protect our health and those of our family and neighbors. From there we will eventually change our world. Beth has done a wonderful job of accumulating many solutions from various sources that we could all learn from.

In the world of agriculture, plastic is everywhere we turn. From strawberry fields of plastic mulch to greenhouses, hoop houses, drip tape and food packaging, we are surrounded by it. As growers and marketers of produce, we have jumped into the center of the plastic waste reduction issue by taking some steps that we hope will lead to further change for us and our customers.

It is virtually impossible to eliminate ALL plastic from our lives but our goal is to reduce the disposable types of plastic that we use here at Route 1 Farms. We have instigated a donation fee for bio-plastic bags at all of our farmers market stands to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.  This has reduced bag use at our stands from about 4,000 a month, 3 years ago, to only about a hundred now!  We in turn donate the money from the bags to the Santa Cruz based non-profit, The Clean Oceans Project. They are working hard to clean up the North Pacific Gyre and to convert the plastic collected into fuel!

Our reusable crates (although made out of plastic) are used many times (possibly hundreds of times) eliminating the use of the ubiquitous waxed cardboard boxes that are everywhere and tend to break down after only a few uses. As Beth has pointed out, paper isn’t necessarily the solution.  We have also almost done away with wrapping our pallets for shipment in thin, single use disposable plastic. In its’ place we are using corner boards and large rubber bands to hold the boxes and crates in place.

We are continually evaluating our plastic use as well as other practices to improve our impact on the environment as well as efficiency. Though this is a start there is still much work to be done.