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Food Safety

Posted 7/24/2014 4:45pm by Ben Wenk.

Aerial Peach Orchard, 3springsIf you're reading this update, a grocery store near you recently pulled California peaches off its shelves because of a recent lysteria contamination.  

 

Should local Giants, Aldis, Trader Joes, Costco's etc. be stocking peaches, plums etc from California?  Well, if people buy them, they'll continue to sell them.  A better question, should these stores stock peaches while local products are in season?  Well... again, California peaches will always be cheaper because they've got the economy of scale on their side. A lot of people are looking to buy cheap peaches.  Georgia, South Carolina the same - they can grow peaches cheaper in these places than we can.  When people want cheap fruits and vegetables, these grocery stores will sell them.  However, lysteria is no laughing matter so that could start to make an impact on people's buying decisions as well.  

 

So, there's a reason that cheap food is so inexpensive and this week's recall is a prime example of this.  But what can we do to lower the cost of food?  Well, as French grocer Intermarché has done in this video(embedded below), we can reduce food waste.  The third largest chain of groceries in food-crazed France introduced the concept of "inglorious fruits and vegetables" - oddball and somewhat ugly produce purchased directly from local growers and offered to the public at a discount.  The idea was a huge hit and produced measurable impacts on their receipts AND in reducing food waste.  How cool it would be to see these super markets replace the shelf space one occupied by recalled California peaches with local, "inglorious" fruits and vegetables?  That sounds like cheap(er), healthy, safe eating that we can all get behind.

Posted 11/11/2010 2:59pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmFolks, we really do care about providing the tastiest, healthiest, local product around.  In this selection from our YouTube Channel, we go in depth about what distinguishes us from conventionally raised tree fruit.  Topics covered include partnering with the folks at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center, Pheromone Mating Disruption, scouting with pheromone traps, and our basic philosophy regarding our growing methods.

for further reading:

or Three Springs Growing Practices

Posted 8/13/2010 11:01am by Ben Wenk.

Food Alliance Certified Producer

Here we are in August, the busiest harvest time of the season.  We're picking peaches, plums, pluots, apples, pears, blackberries, tomatoes (need I continue)... but!  Despite all of this, my lack of willingness to be inside when the sun is out, and the general rigors or late summer/early fall, I'm writing this blog entry to inform everyone about something very important.  Three Springs Fruit Farm is Food Alliance Certified.

I know what you're thinking - "fancy words, what do they mean"? That's a great place to start! Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization, established so that producers such as ourselves who effort every day to be on the forefront of what it means to be a sustainable farm can have our practices verified through an independent third party inspection. 
Food Alliance certification standards set a high bar for agricultural and food industry sustainability.  These standards are available for anyone to view on their website.  When you see the Food Alliance Certified seal on your food, you can be certain those who grew it practice intensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM), reduce their use of pesticides, and chose pesticides with low toxicities.  You can be sure that the farm on which this food was grown preserves topsoil, conserves water, and doesn't allow excesses of soil, water, or nutrients to leave cropped areas and enter wild areas.  You can rest assured a Food Alliance Certified producer maintains and promotes wildlife habitat on his or her acreage, that the employees of this farm are highly valued and treated as such, and that we are committed to continually improving our sustainability practices.The Food Alliance Certified seal denotes the most comprehensive third party certification in North America.

Why did we pursue such an intensive undertaking? The answer was two-fold. First, we thought we deserved recognition for going the extra mile to grow our fruit in this way. While we always will think of our growing practices as "doing the right thing" and that's good in and of itself, it was worth it to have someone verify these things because, two, others have made claims all the time. The second reason we sought certification is because our word against someone else's is only so valid. When an uncertified grower makes a claim about growing practices or water conservation, each customer can assign as much truth to that claim as he or she would like. Now that we are a Food Alliance Certified producer, and our apples, peaches, pears, and cherries are Food Alliance Certified products, we can make these claims and customers can accept them with full confidence. It's not my word against the word of someone else - it's an independently verified fact.

In a lot of respects, this is our way of rewarding our farmers market customers for their confidence in the past. You've met us, got to know us, and you've looked me and my friends and family in the eye at market and believed us when we told you that we're doing our best to grow your food in the most sustainable way we can. So here's the validation of what our farm has been telling you when you come to market. It's something we're passionate about and something we don't take lightly. Thank you for relying on our farm in the past and thanks for supporting your only local Food Alliance certified fruit growers in the future!

Farmer Ben


here's a link to our press release (link) - thank you, PASA!

more Three Springs Growing Practices, or



Three Springs Fruit Farm

Posted 5/20/2010 1:31pm by Ben Wenk.

You're reading the third entry in the series of blogs devoted to our growing methods entitled "Growing Greener".  My wish for these entries to to assure you through our candor and transparency that we truly are going out of our way to provide the very best produce for you and your family.  Feel free to comment or contact us with any questions.  Links to other GG blogs can be found at the end of this entry.


A recent study, as published in the medical journal "Pediatrics", cites childhood exposure to organophosphate pesticides as a possible link to ADHD.  As strict IPM (Integrated Pest Management) growers, a pesticide such as an organophosphate would be one of the last things we would ever want to have to spray and as a result, I'm proud to say that no organophosphate is sprayed on our crops.  We would never sell anyone anything that wasn't safe to eat.  Since this topic is a point of discussion in light of current events, I found this to be a terrific opportunity to address the "whats" and "whys" of the spraying we occasionally must do to prevent the failure of our crops.

seedling tree bloomFirst, the most difficult things we need to control in our tree fruits are diseases, not insects.  We control many of our most damaging insect species with Pheromone Mating Disruption, the subject of an earlier blog.  When we spray an insecticide, it's only after the results of hours of scouting and insect data has been evaluated and some sort of remedy is required (another blog topic covered earlier).  

The determination of what to spray when an insecticide is required is not made on a whim.  It's made based on whatever species needs controlled.  We intend to control only this species and leave other species flourish when we can.  During three different summers home from college, I collected insect data at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center Entomology Department.  The USDA and state funded program my wages supported was known as R.A.M.P (Risk Avoidance Mitigation Program).  This program was devoted to the very topic in the news now - finding alternatives to organophosphate insecticides (OPs).  OPs control insects because they are neurotoxins - they affect the central nervous system of the insects they control.  OP insecticides have the same effect on an agroecosystem as a cannon shot - every insect is susceptible to nerve damage when these products are sprayed, whether their population was high or low, whether those insects damaged our crop or protected it.  The newer products in the RAMP study might attack the insects'
PSU  Fruit Lab, Biglervilleeggs or their ability to create an exoskeleton.  These materials, to complete the above analogy, are like a single arrow shot directly at the problem insect ("pest").  Working in the RAMP program, I learned there was a better way than these OPs.  As a volunteer in the RAMP program, my father learned how to use these softer pesticides (if an insecticide only works on eggs, you have to spray when those eggs are present - sometimes just a few weeks per year).  In short, the RAMP program proved that these greener insecticides could be as effective as OPs if they are applied correctly by folks who are studying their agroecosystem and can study the lifecycles of these pests.  Since these greener products are targeting specific insects, they pose very little threat to human health... I mean, except for the ones birthing offspring in external egg masses and the ones with exoskeletons, for example (if you meet this description, you might have a problem... and it'll have little to do with fruit).  Having learned from these experiences, we were able to move away from these compounds years ago.  While the OPs are still cheaper, we value the decreased toxicity of these products.  Because of this, we allow the species that are natural enemies of these pest to flourish in our orchards, including the biological control agents we spread a few years back... but that's another blog for a different day.

The results of our forward thinking approach is that we can confidently tell all of you that the fruits and veggies you buy from us are not sprayed with these harmful compounds.  As we continue to educate ourselves in the winter and partner with Penn State in their research, we'll continue to be ahead of the curve in terms of providing the safest fruits and vegetables you'll find anywhere.


Further reading on growing practices:

Growing Practices, IPM, and Food Safety