Transcript of interview of Living Earth Farms Founder by Chaunta Salas of Purdue University
My name is Chaunta Salas. I am one of the students from Purdue Calumet working on the project proposal for your Living Earth Farms veggie boxes. I was wondering if I could possibly send you some interview questions for you to answer? Before doing so I was wondering how you came about Living Earth Farms and how long you have been in the business of farming? To add if you have any credentials based in farming? I only ask these questions because it is required the person we are interviewing has some sort of credentials based in the field. If you don't, it is completely okay! I just have to ask my teacher if I can still follow through with the interview.
I have been interested in gardening since I was 10 years old when I helped my grandparents with their extensive garden plots. My uncle also owned a wholesale produce business in Milwaukee in the 1960's where I got exposure to the produce business. Since the early 70's I have been practicing organic gardening techniques such as composting, companion planting and beneficial insect research. I have planted over 50 fruit and nut trees on my acre plot in Cedar Lake Indiana in the past 30 years many of them have been propagated or grafted by me. I have been growing shiitake mushrooms on oak logs for over 15 years and have recently expanded the process to close to 75 logs. I have been a member of the North America Nut Growers association and North American Fruit Growers Association, am currently a member of the Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Market Makers and have a PACA licence issued by the USDA.
I purchased the 15 acre property in May of 2011 and started Living Earth Farms as a business in August of 2011 and have been busy getting the the property ready for organic crop production. We have begun planting perrenial crops which will require several years to come into production and have started planting various plantings to encourage beneficial insects. We are also working on improving the soil quality with large quantities of organic matter. We have partnered with the Town of Chesterton and have begun recycling over 50 truck loads of leaves from their street department. As I currently am working full time at BP as an operations specialist my plan is to gradually get the farm ready for commercial production in the next couple of years. Our goal is to produce our crops using methods which work in harmony with nature with no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms.
I am not sure what type of credentials are required by your teacher but the above information pretty much sums up the status of Living Earth Farms at the present time. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you with your project.
Living Earth Farms
Hi Mr Roedel, I am Chaunta Salas from Purdue University and I have some questions for you about Living Earth Farms. You do not have to answer all of them if you don't want to.
Are you involved in any associations?
Yes, we are a member of the Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Market Makers and have a PACA license.
Is Living Earth Farms owned by you or is it a franchise?
Living earth Farms is currently a sole proprietorship wholly owned by me.
What is your opinion on conventional farming? Do you believe that the local/organic farmers will be pushed off their farms because of the conventional industry?
I believe conventional farmers are under tremendous economic pressure to maintain the high yields necessary to maintain their business. They can’t afford to take chances with insects, plant disease or poor yields that would threaten the economic survival of their business. It would be a very difficult transition for a large scale conventional farm to make a quick transition to organic farming methods. I believe small scale organic farms that have taken the time to work on the fertility of the soil, development of beneficial insect populations and develop organic farming techniques and crop choices suitable to their business can survive along with the conventional farming industry and be successful.
Do you think that lack of education is why consumers continue to shop at local grocery stores instead of purchasing form their local farmer?
Partly lack of education on the benefits of organically grown products and the dangers of chemical pesticides but I believe it is mostly for convenience. Modern grocery stores carry such an extensive selection of fresh fruits and vegetables year round that in most cases it is just easier to go to the grocery store where so many products are available year round with so little effort. The odds of a single farm having what you want when you want it all the time is pretty slim. The closest thing to the convenience of a grocery store would be the seasonal farmers markets which due to the variety of participating farms supply a varied selection of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Your business is unique and definitely what the people need, how do you strive to be different from other local farmers? Do you believe that advertisement is key to your business success?
I don’t strive to be different from other farmers, I strive to grow plants in cooperation with nature and consider the soil to be a living organism that when properly cared for can provide the best growing environment for the crops we grow. As for the key to our business success I believe customer service is our most important priority. Being able to provide our customers with quality product and delivering on our commitments to our customers is our top priority. I believe advertisement will become important once we establish the framework to provide quality products and service to our customers. We plan on building the business slowly and too much advertisement too soon may lead us not being able to deliver on our commitments.
How will you get your business to be recognized by surrounding communities?
Hopefully with quality products and great customer service. We still have a long way to go before we are ready to be recognized by the surrounding communities.
Have you considered your business to be somewhat like County Line Apple Orchard, where the public is involved and has an understanding of how and why the way you do it is better than industrial businesses?
We have a long way to go before we can consider ourselves like County Line Orchard. They are a successfully established business with years of successful operations. We are in the process of getting the farm certified organic , building our soil fertility, putting in our perennial planting and slowly establishing a customer base. We welcome the opportunity to explain to the public our philosophy on cooperation with nature in our organic farming philosophy but until we are operating successfully as a business do not claim to do it better then established industrial businesses.
Can you explain the importance of or organic crop production?
In my opinion chemical use in farming has gotten out of hand. Every year new chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides are released and advertised as a great benefit. It is not till years later when some of the long term drawbacks to these substances become apparent that they are withdrawn from the market. Do we really know the long term dangers of all the chemicals and genetically modified organisms being introduced to us on a daily basis? Why not use the material nature provides us with to maintain the fertility of the soil? Why not enlist the help of beneficial insects to help protect our crops? There are no proven or suggested long term detrimental effects of using organic matter to maintain soil fertility. There is little chance of some long term side effects from using companion plantings to encourage beneficial insects as pest control.
Can you explain the importance of sustainable farming?
I believe it enables crops to be grown in an environment of continual increase of soil fertility. Reduction of danger of chemical runoff that can pollute the environment and residual pesticides that can harm the food chain for years to come.
Most people seem to not understand the importance of maintaining the quality of soil; can you give a brief summary as why soil is so important for crops and even for our future?
Our soil is made up of thousands of organisms in a symbiotic relationship which nature utilizes to maintain and build soil fertility. The continuous use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides destroys the living soil and leaves it ever more reliant on more chemicals to maintain plant growth. A recent documentary on the History Channel about the Dust Bowl is a great example of the importance of maintaining soil quality. Overuse of the land (which of course was encouraged by experts at the time) with no attention to soil conservation caused the loss of hundreds of millions of acres of topsoil.
You have such great intelligence about the way insects help the growth of plants, while most people believe in the companies that utilize pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and genetically modified organism, are there ways that you believe can help persuade the people into believing in the route that you are taking?
Thanks but nature is the great intelligence that provides the processes that allow the thousands of organisms that work together to build soil fertility and maintain a healthy environment for healthy plant growth. The massive advertising budgets of the big companies that provide the chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and GMO’s to maintain the modern farming industry have convinced people that their products are the only solution to every farming problem. Maybe it’s time for people to spend some time observing how nature builds soil fertility and keep’s pests in control and decide whether it is best to work in cooperation with nature or continuously fight it to achieve the best results. I do not want to imply that science based company’s have no role in organic farming. Many useful organic products are provided by the same companies that produce chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is up to every individual to look into the facts and decide for themselves which farming methods are best for the long term benefit of their communities.
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How is it promoted for use?
Shiitake mushrooms are promoted to fight the development and progression of cancer and AIDS by boosting the body's immune system. These mushrooms are also said to help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and to help treat infections such as hepatitis by producing interferon, a group of natural proteins that stops viruses from multiplying. Promoters claim that eating both the cap and stem of the mushroom may be helpful, but they do not say how much must be eaten to have an effect. They say the strength and effects of the mushroom depend on how it is prepared and consumed.
Promoters claim that shiitake mushrooms contain several compounds with health benefits. A compound called lentinan is believed to stop or slow tumor growth. Another component, activated hexose-containing compound (also known as 1,3-beta glucan), is also said to reduce tumor activity and lessen the side effects of cancer treatment. The mushrooms also contain the compound eritadenine, which is thought to lower cholesterol by blocking the way cholesterol is absorbed into the bloodstream. These claims are currently being studied.
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