The Wonderful World of Insects

May 25, 2015

The wonderful world of insects.


The first question always asked to organic farmers is, “What do you do about insects?”  Insects can be one of the most interesting aspects of farming, such as when one of our employees stumbles upon a massive praying mantis or is startled by that monstrous spider crawling up his or her arm.  However, insects can also become one of the most frustrating parts of organic farming.  Nothing is worse than going to pick kale and finding an outbreak of cabbage worms chomping holes in the leaves.


We began as gardeners and were never concerned about the insects.  We would eat kale with holes in it and couldn’t tell the difference.  But as we ventured in to selling produce, we quickly realized most customers are not to enthralled with worms floating to the top of the pot of boiling broccoli. 


Overtime, we have had many challenges and also many successes with the insects.  But, farming and land is always evolving and with every year comes new challenges.  Our main challenge this year is to figure out how to keep pesky aphids off of our brassica crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc…) in the spring and in the fall. 


Brassicas have many critters that love to munch their leaves such as cabbage worms and flea beetles.  We have successfully controlled these insects by planting crops called trap crops.  These are crops we know the insects want, and we will let them have eat freely.  These crops we do not sell, instead we watch them as they are devoured.  As the insects migrate toward these areas, we cover the plants we are going to sell with a fabric row cover and have found this technique does work.


However, every time you as a farmer alter the environment, you may gain an advantage, but there is always a negative consequence.  The negative consequence to this technique is that aphids whose eggs are present in the soil prior to planting, hatch underneath the cover.  Usually, there are enough beneficial insects in the area that find aphids to be a delicacy and this keeps their population manageable.  But remember, the plants are covered to exclude the cabbage worms and flea beetles, and the cover does this so well that it also excludes the beneficial insects and the aphid population can reproduce unchecked. 


So this year we had an idea.  Why not release ladybugs underneath the covers of the brassica crops, when we see the first signs of aphids.  On Thursday, we released 100,000 ladybugs throughout our field, purposely trapping them under the covers hoping that they find an all you can eat aphid buffet.  We will be monitoring and checking to see if this technique works.  As usual, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, it may work, but what negative consequence could come next??   This is why we love farming, the challenges are never ending, which make the successes so gratifying.



This week's share consists of:

Full Share- carrots, head lettuce, radishes, scallions, kale, fennel, pak choy, green cabbage and escarole.

Half Share- carrots, head lettuce, radishes, scallions, kale and fennel.


What can I make with my share this week?? Here are a couple of ideas!

Stir fry is a great way to turn a few of your share items into a delicious and filling meal. I like this recipe for homemade stir fry sauce- Everything but the head lettuce would cook up well in a stir fry this week. Start off by cooking your veggies in 1-2 tablespoons of canola and/or sesame oil over medium/high heat. Once they are almost done (taste the crunchier veggies like carrots to see how soft they are), add your sauce and continue cooking until it is thick and coats the veggies. Cooked rice or noodles can be mixed into your stir fry at the very end or you can use them as a bed and serve the stir fry on top for a nice presentation. Everything gets mixed together at our house since we're more about taste and speed!


Escarole and Bean Soup-


Cabbage, Fennel and Carrot Slaw-


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Alburtis, PA 18011

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Salvaterra's Gardens