by Beth Rankin
The Wild Ramp Market’s mission is to provide local food, regardless of the growing method used by its Producers. That means there are farmers who use conventional farming methods which utilizes some sprays to minimize pest and weed damage to the crop, Certified Organic Farmers who have demonstrated to the Federal Government that they raise their food in a manner without chemicals, and a whole bunch of other farmers who use the methods used by Organic farmers but are not certified.
The concept of food free from chemical use of pesticides and herbicides appeals to some of the people who shop at The Wild Ramp, but there is reluctance by many to pay a bit more for that food. So why does organic produce or produce grown using organic procedures usually cost a bit more?
I met with Connie and Carroll Devore of C&C Farm in Crown City, Ohio to discuss this pricing issue. Connie had mentioned to me some time ago that when you start with organic corn seed at $38 a pound, you have to charge a bit more than seed available for conventional farming. I thought getting a bit more detail might be of interest to you.
We discussed the current crop of sweet potatoes that will be available at The Wild Ramp. They purchase the slips (essentially, rooted plants) from Scott’s Farm in North Carolina. By the time those slips are planted when there is no longer any threat of frost, the soil has been prepared. That means organic compost was mixed into the soil in early spring. As the soil warms up and dries out a bit from the spring rains, it gets tilled up into hills that provide the right kind of growing space. Then, usually the end of May, the slips are planted.
It takes 90-120 days for the sweet potatoes to mature. Each slip can produce 3-4 large potatoes with several small ones. Care has to be taken during the growing season to keep the hills weeded, as grass and other unwanted growth will remove nutrition and growing space from the Sweet potatoes. That means weeding by hand, no spray. It’s a lot of manual labor.
In addition, moles tend to enjoy sweet potatoes as well. Carroll has built a number of traps that can catch the animals and they have also used a noise system that produces irregular sounds below the ground to discourage the animals from snacking.
C&C Farm purchased 100 slips of Covington sweet potatoes this year. Connie says they are sweet, full of flavor and not stringy. That means they can expect about 300-400 large sweet potatoes.
Once they sell out there will be no more. The Devores say the sweet potatoes can be stored in a dry cool place. They have a cellar that also has their furnace so while it is generally cool, the heat from the furnace keeps the damp away. They also have stored sweet potatoes in their garage. Connie reports that she often has potatoes to use into the next spring when stored correctly. Last fall I purchased sweet potatoes at The Wild Ramp, kept them in a paper sack on my enclosed porch, and enjoyed them for our Thanksgiving feast.