A Wish to the Manufacturing World: Fall Week #1 – 10/25/23

 In CSA Newsletter

A Wish to the Manufacturing World

The thing about being a niche organic vegetable farmer is that the general manufacturing industry sometimes does not have products we need or desire. Since we’re so small in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make sense to produce things for us. 

If there was a magic farm genie that granted me three product development wishes, I would wish for the following: 

#1: Molded, vented fiber pulp berry containers with hinged lids.
In the berry container world, it is super easy to find products to put berries in made out of recycled materials – specially molded fiber pulp (think egg carton).  These products don’t work for us for two reasons: 
a) Without lids, the berries spill in your box. 
b) Without lids, we can’t stack them in storage – which we need to be able to do due to storage capacity constraints. 
c) There are these little hairnet-like covers we can hand-put over the top of each container, however, it still wouldn’t allow us to stack them. 

I have spent hours scouring the internet packaging companies. What I want is simple. I want a fiber pulp berry container with a hinged lid. For the life of me I can’t figure out why it doesn’t exist!  I know they can make something like this, because egg cartons are made of the same material and they have hinged lids. 

We have toyed with trying to use other kinds of take-out containers, but we always run into the containers not being the right size and/or they aren’t vented, which is super important for storing VERY perishable berries. If we have to harvest in the rain and put berries in non-vented containers, they would turn into mushy messes. 

#2: OMRI (organically)-approved biodegradable plastic mulch. 
Our farm uses “plastic mulch”, which are thin sheets of colored plastic, in crops that are long-growing, tall OR vining and thus difficult to keep weed pressure down with our mechanized equipment. We have an implement that creates a raised soil bed and lays down this thin sheet. We then poke holes in the sheet to plant our crops and the plastic then prevents weeds from crowding these plants. Crops we use this for include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and melons. It is a KEY tactic we use as organic farmers, since we aren’t spraying chemicals to control weeds. 

Currently there exists a biodegradable plastic mulch that non-organic farmers can use. But currently there does not exist one that is certified to use in organic systems. So what that means is we have to pull all the plastic out of the fields and put it in a landfill. 

I am not a fan of using all this plastic and SO WISH there was a way to remain organically certified and use a biodegradable product. 

There does exist a paper mulch, but the trials have been poor. The paper breaks down way too quickly, and lets weeds in, defeating its intended purpose. 

#3. Biodegradable drip tape

Drip tape is a targeted watering system that absolutely helps us conserve water and prevent as much overhead irrigation use. Our implement lays these thin black plastic tubes under the plastic mulch. It has tiny pin-prick holes every 6 inches that lay down water right on the plants roots and nowhere else. The crop gets the water it needs, surrounding weeds do not. 

In this way, drip tape is both a water conservation technique as well as a weed suppression technique. It is incredibly important in making our organic system thrive. 

Wouldn’t it be cool if these tapes could get tilled up right along with  plastic mulch and biodegrade right back into the soil?

Waiting for an innovator…. in the meantime, putting plastic in dumpsters and fantasizing about an organic farm product genie. 

Enjoy your veggies!