Today, organic farming is booming, but just a few years ago -- as many of us remember -- there were much fewer opportunities to buy organic. What you might not be aware of are the opportunities, or lack thereof, that were available to growers themselves: Otto Kramm, today of Earthbound Farm in Salinas, California, worked for years as a conventional grower, relying on pesticides and chemicals in order to raise his crops.
"I always loved to grow things as a child," he says. "It must have been the fact of life. The soil is the womb, we add the seed, nurture its growth, bring it to maturity into the world. I just love the Circle of Life in Farming." Otto's all-natural farming philosophy was not the one that governed his work. While he kept an organic garden at home to feed his family, he never knew what chemicals were making their way home with him, into the house where he raised his children, which is why when he was offered the opportunity to grow organically for Earthbound farm, he jumped at the chance.
In this new environment, nearly everything changed. Now Otto is "farming 100% organic day in and day out."
"Everything we do starts with soil -- its what organic farming is all about," Otto explains. "Good healthy soil adds nutrients and flavors to crops which cannot be duplicated in growing media or hydroponics."
Organic farming is all about getting to know your region and growing conditions, not just the soil, but every element that can affect the crops. Organic growing takes a lot of know-how, with no simple solution to any problem. "Here in California, water is a big issue, so ensuring adequate water for the future is critical," Otto says. "Then there's also the challenges of farming in densely populated areas and, honestly, having enough people to get the work done, especially in organic farming which is more labor intensive than conventional farming."
From the Organic Authority Files
As a result of all of the changes that organic growing has brought to his career, today Otto works much more closely with Mother Nature. But organic growing has also brought him closer to his consumers. "Here at Earthbound Farm, what we decide to plant and grow is driven by customer and consumer demand," he says. "We work closely with our customers to plan our farming schedules."
He encourages consumers to get involved in making their food choices by going straight to the source. "It's worth your time to learn about who's producing your food," he says. "Trust the farms/companies/brands you have researched. I know from experience that Earthbound Farm's standards in food safety and organic integrity are exceptionally high."
It's clear that Otto believes in his company and what he's growing, which is reassuring to consumers considering produce from Earthbound Farms. Currently, Earthbound Farms' baby greens, romaine, kale, chard, broccoli, cauliflower and broccolette are in season. The latter is a cross between broccoli and gai lan.
"I love my broccolette!" says Otto. "To prepare, I just place in a shallow baking pan, brush with olive oil and bake at 425 for about 15-20 minutes. This will caramelize the vegetables and turn them a little bit dark, but it really brings out the sweetness of the broccolette. Then I top with a little fresh ground pepper and sea salt -- I think sea salt really brings out the best flavors in vegetables." In this case, it's a good idea to trust the expert.
Organic Authority would like to thank Otto Kramm and all of the sustainable, organic farmers and chefs whose work is providing healthy food for us all to eat. We honor you as being conscious stewards of our planet. And, we are thrilled to have you participating in our Earth Day event!
Images: Earthbound Farms