We are organic growers, we practice regenerative soil building,and as we farm we work to build up resilient farm land. Our organic growing practices can be seen as an act of resistance to the mainstream plough and planting of large scale agriculture. And though we may disagree on some growing techniques, all of us, organic growers, “ploughers”, orchards, wineries and you the consumer are all faced with this wicked plastic problem that we need to work together on.
So how do we reduce single use plastic in our vegetable production? It’s front and center in the minds of most producers in the valley (that, and the incredibly wet and cold spring we just made it through) This problem is bigger than simply clearing out our shelves of a couple hundred U-Line 5 lbs plastic bags, and it’s more than switching to paper, or bulk sections in grocers and farm markets. Changing producer and consumer habits is an up hill climb, I’m talking a steep climb, way higher then trecking up the North Mountain to get to Halls Harbour…
What exactly is the problem?
Our climate is changing, not warming, changing. Weather patterns, sea levels and soil infrastructure around the world are shifting. People have decided to rally around eradicating plastics as small means of helping mitigate our collective impact on our environment. Single use plastics surround us and it feels like there has been a conscious awakening to reduce petroleum based, thin shiny bags, and wraps. More than 40% of the plastic we use is single use, and only 5 % of plastic we throw away is recycled. Since 1950 (when the use of plastics really took off) we have created roughly 9.2 billion tons of plastic and a whomping 6.3 billion tons has never made it to the recycling bin (Laura Parker, National Geographic June 2018). Our plastic world, causes an array of problems. From releasing micro doses of toxins into the environment, to not being able to break down and simple accumulating as mass amount of garbage all around us. It is ending up in our water ways, in our soils, on our roadsides and in small ways in our bodies. Efforts to address plastics are already underway with the June 2018 commitment to the Ocean Plastics Charter. The charter included commitments to work with industry to achieve significant reduction and recyclable goals by 2030/40.
Goals for 2030 – 2040 are too far in the future to feel tangible. At TapRoot we work hard to grow food that is good for our bodies and our planet in hopes that we both may be prosperous into the future. It is important for us to also make sure that when we send our produce out into the world, we do so in a way that does not contradict these morals. Right now, yes, we sell some of our produce in plastic. And now that needs, (and I can’t stress enough NEEDS) to change.
What are we doing?
Right now the majority of produce that we sell wholesale goes out in plastic. This happens for two reasons. Plastic holds th integrity of the food. Once the produce leaves our farm, it is out of our hands, we don’t have the ability to oversee how it looks and how it holds up on a grocers shelf. Things like overwintered root vegetables or spinach and salad mix, will quickly go soft if they are left out in the open air. Plastic hold the moisture into the plant, allowing it to stay “fresh” before it makes it into your home. Second, plastic helps in lowering the risk of bacteria forming on our produce, making it unsafe to eat. Things like E. coli can for on leafy greens if they are exposed to humid warm temperatures allowing the bacteria to flourish. Having that plastic bearier helps to hod off the spread of bacteria.
Those two points are always on our mind, how do we keep out produce looking and tasty good and safe, while we work to be-rid plastic. With our CSA members we made a promise to get rid of plastic. This was an easier step for us as the produce is picked, boxes and sent out to members the next day, we make sure everything stays crisp and fresh between our hands and theirs, it’s a quick transfer.
We have been using paper bags and pieced of linen to package items in our CSA. Members have learnt that once they receive their greens in paper bags, they must be transferred to containers once put into their refrigerators to make sure greens don’t wilt! Our second action (so far) in reducing plastic is to sell bulk greens at the Noggins Corner Farm Market in Greenwich. Bulk greens are put out and monitored daily, we take on some loss, but us loosing some leafy greens for the sake of reducing plastic is worth it. There are paper bags, or of course bring your own bags to use for these bulk sections.
And that is where we are at. Two small steps, but steps non the less. As we work through these consumer struggles together, please let us know if you see or know of great alternatives to packaging in plastic. We will continue to increase our bulk options, as the uptake for bulk increases. Together we can change our habitual consumption around plastic items. If you see available bulk items and you are keen let us know, share the excitement. We are all in this together, that is motivation enough.