When did garlic scapes start costing more than asparagus?
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Garlic scapes began to become an in ingredient four or five years ago, and in some places sell for as much as $15/pound. So, if you're paying two bucks for a six ounce packet you're ahead of the game. That would only be four dollars for the modern 12-ounce "pound."
The fundamental problem for the smaller farmers is that they have three different kinds of products: the expensive gourmet ones that only wealthy people and sometimes chefs buy, the inexpensive ones that everyone wants in vast quantity, and the ones that ought to be products but nobody seems to want.
Type A example: funny-colored beets. Chefs love them, fancy gourmet types love them, locals often won't touch them, or want to pay the same as for regular beets per pound. If you're going to grow them at all, you have to keep the quantities down and the prices up or you get hosed.
Type B example: tomatoes. The danger is that you can easily get undercut by the next farmer over, everyone buys his first because they're 5 cents cheaper per pound, and now you've got 10 pounds of tomato seconds that you can't sell for almost anything. So although these are your mainstays, they're very volatile and research-intensive.
Type C example: unusual types of onions. An onion is an onion is an onion, says almost every purchaser, unless it's a Vidalia or something. You might get a hair more if you have an heirloom variety, but you won't move much product. The stuff just hasn't become a hot ingredient yet, so nobody's interested.
So here I am, the organic farmer, and suddenly garlic scapes are the hot ingredient. Can you blame me for shifting them from Type C to Type A? You have no idea how close to the red these guys live. The prices you cite strike me as very high, but I'm thinking of the northern Vermont summer market, which is quite different (like, less expensive because less hip because hard to get to from New York). Nevertheless, any organic farmer worth his manure will seize on any opportunity to jack a price and maybe (cross fingers) make a profit this year. Until, of course, the freak rainstorm wipes out this week's greens....
So, I am a HUGE supporter of local organic produce, but, I think the real problem for farmers is that having a small organic farm with a very diverse crop is not a business model that works -I'm not saying they all should plow their land and plant one crop, that is terrible for the land, but being a little less diverse, finding a middle ground between commercial and small organic farms (closer to the small side) and focusing on 4 or 5 heirloom products might be a more profitable? I don't know? I'm not a
farmer. -so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. But I've seen too many idealistic go down in flames, because they forgot they were running a business.
Buoana boy, I am an organic gardener and I think there is something you should know about diversity in crops.
When a gardener plants his field, let say full of peppers and tomatoes, potatoes in the fall and carrots, in the spring kale, swiss chard and just continues to use those staple crops year after year, they are ignoring a very important concept and practice when it comes to small scale farming; it's called crop rotation. Many organic gardeners impress this idea about crop rotation and it's main purpose is to prevent disease. If you come upon the mass disease occurrances and it gets on everything, then your crop is ruined. Chemicals can prevent it, but there goes your organic out the window.
A way to combat the natural occurrance of diseases from multiple years of planting the same plant in the same spot is plant diversity. If you keep switching your crop and grow lots of vegetables, then the disease bacterias will fade away preventing the local organic gardener from using chemicals. Hope that helps you understand the reasons why some have lots of diversity.
OG, perhaps you didn't notice, but this thread is two years old, and I don't recall seeing any recent posts from buoana boy in some time. So don't be surprised if there's no response from him.
That aside, your comments re: rotation seem grossly oversimplified. They certainly overstate the case.
In theory, crop rotation is practiced for two reasons: to prevent depletion of nutrients, and to deter pests and disease. The first is totally in disrepute. Whether you are organic or use conventional chemical farming, it doesn't truly apply---and likely never did. Either way you are replacing nutrients. The only difference between you and a synthetic chemical proponent is that you are creating healthy soil and the other guy isn't. But both of you are replacing depleted nutrients on an on-going basis.
Pest and disease prevention only makes sense if 1. You have an incredible amount of land (not true for the typical diverse organic grower), or can so arrange your crops that neither the original species nor any relative is within migration distance of an infection---difficult with soil-borne organisims, nearly impossible with air-borne ones.
Let's say you had a problem with tomatoes in one area, and have enough space to safely move them out of the way (which can mean not planting them downwind, as well as planting them far away). The list of things you cannot plant in the original area (or even close to it) includes peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and, to stretch a point, tobacco. Disease bacteria do not just fade away. Self-sanitation can take as much as three or four years; three or four years in which you cannot return the original or its relatives to that location. So the question becomes, do you have enough land to grow them far enough away? Or do you drop them altogether? And, if the latter, what do you replace them with that is marketable?
On the other hand, if you've never had a significant infection, there's no reason not to grow tomatoes in the same ground, year after year.
I'm not suggesting that crop rotation is totally ineffective. But it's not the panacea many growers have been led to believe. And the mechanics of it can drive you to drink.
Edited by KYHeirloomer - 5/22/11 at 6:12pm