Those of you who have been faithful newsletter readers for a while know that we have been involved with the effort to transition the organic strawberry industry into using organically grown starter plants for some time now. See our original article about this — Organic Strawberries from Conventional Stock? from 2010. Unlike all other crops which must be planted from starts that were produced organically, organic strawberry growers were given a loophole which allows them to use conventional plants when organic ones aren’t available. The upshot is that nearly the entire industry is using conventional plants which results in annual releases of approximately 1.3 million pounds of ozone-depleting and toxic pesticides just to supply plants for “organic” fields.

The good news is that things are starting to change. As loyal readers will also know, our strawberry plants this season were 100% organically grown. A company call Innovative Organic Nursery has begun to produce high quality organic transplants in Shasta County. And a formal campaign, now called “Organic Strawberry Fields Forever: From Start to Finish”, led by Lisa Bunin and Liana Hoodes from Organic Advocacy, has been formed to help educate growers, regulators and the public about this important issue.

Perhaps the most exciting news, however, is that we (as a group) have secured a grant from the Organic Farming Research Foundation to conduct on-farm trials comparing organically grown plants with conventional ones for yield and disease presence throughout next season. (There was an article about the grant in the Santa Cruz Sentinel last week.) This is a critical step in convincing large scale organic growers, many of whom can be quite conservative and resistant to change, to make the switch. If we can show them that organically grown starts perform as well, or better, than conventional ones—as I am quite convinced they will—they will really have no excuse.

Farewell to Andrew: This week we bid a fond farewell to our chef Andrew Cohen, who has graced the pages of our newsletter with his cooking suggestions and recipes for the past 6 years. We have appreciated his humor and expertise and could always count on him for something tasty, interesting and unusual! All of Andrew’s recipes are on our website — you can always search by vegetable to find anything you’re looking for, and we’ll continue to have those links in the newsletter to relevant recipes. We look forward to seeing what Andrew does next!

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