Thought of the Week

As odd as it may sound, civilization’s survival depends on treating soil as an investment,
as a valuable inheritance rather than a commodity
– as something other than dirt.



Posted in Ag Production, Dirt, Education, Farmland Preservation, Feeding the World, For Kids, Soil, Thought of the Week | Leave a comment

Cider Me

Cider just evokes fall feelings, doesn’t it? Falling leaves, cozy sweaters, crisp mornings, and hot apple juice with spices. And for those of you over the age of 21, hard cider in a variety of flavors and intensities.

Cider has been a popular beverage in Europe for centuries, and while it has been made and drunk here in the United States since colonial times, but is just now starting to gain in popularity. Boutique cider makers are popping up all over the country, creating a huge variety of different ciders.

temp001.jpg Burrow Hill Cider Farm

Cider apples. Photo source

Cider and hard cider can be made from the juice of any old apple, but there is a particular class of apple that makes particularly good cider. Aptly, they are called cider apples. Cider apples are often bitter and dry to the taste, but are great for juicing. Hundreds of varieties of cider apples exist, and their juices are fermented (for hard cider) and blended to create a wide array of ciders.

Once harvested, apples are ground down into a pulp, called pommage. In past history, they were ground using huge millstones and horse or water power. Nowadays, most cider mills have electric grinders. The pulp is then transferred to a cider press and layered with sweet straw or hair cloths, then slatted wood racks, followed by another layer of pulp, until the stack is 10-12 layers high.


Racks of apple pulp being pressed at Cardigan Mountain Orchard cidery in New Hampshire. Photo source

These stacks are then pressed and pressed until all the juice has been extracted. The juice is then strained through a sieve and transferred to either open vats or closed casks. The leftover pulp finds use as animal feed. Hard cider is fermented at low temperatures for three months to up to three years.

Both naturally-occurring and added yeasts convert sugars in the cider to carbon dioxide, which bubbles out and escapes, and alcohol, hence “hard” cider. Before the yeasts have consumed all the sugar in the first fermentation, cider is usually siphoned off to a new fermentation cask or barrel. In this second fermentation, extra sugar is often added, and the barrels are filled completely so that there is no air. The carbon dioxide stays in the cider, creating carbonation.


A batch of homemade cider fermenting away! Photo source

Cider can also be pasturized, spiced, blended, and bottled “soft.” Soft cider is a fall favorite of all ages, especially when it’s served nice and warm on a crisp fall day!

Often ciders from different vats and apple varieties are blended. Ciders can be dry, fruity, spicy, smooth, and a range of flavors in between. They are also found blended with other fruit juices, like cranberry or grape. In Europe, many countries and regions have their own cider varieties. For example, in France, most ciders are sparkling and often served in traditional wide ceramic bowls or mugs. In the Asturias region of Spain, cider has ancient cultural roots – it was first mentioned in 60BC by the Greek geographer Strabo. The region produces 80% of Spain’s cider, and is traditionally served in cider pubs. Asturians also have a special technique for pouring cider – holding the bottle aloft in one hand to pour into a cup held by the other hand far below.

Cider has a long history in the United States. It was often drunk on a daily basis in colonial times, as the water was unsafe to drink. Apple saplings were carefully brought over from England and soon spread throughout the colonies, and there are records of at least one English apple cultivar used for cider and cooking, Catshead, being grown on Berkeley Hundred Plantation in Virginia around this time; later introductions from England would have included Foxwhelp, Redstreak, and the extinct Costard apple. Wealthier farmers imported French apple varieties. Imports of beehives closely followed apple tree imports, as honeybees are imperative in the pollination of apples, but were not native to the New World.


Apple harvest at Island Orchard Cider. Photo source

Today, some cideries, mainly in the Eastern United States, have access to heirloom varieties of apples – the same ones colonists used! Everyone is getting in on the cider business, from local cideries to big beer brewers like Boston Beer Company, the makers of Sam Adams beer and now Angry Orchard cider. Cider houses and tasting rooms are also popping up all over the country.

The United States Association of Cider Makers has a list of cideries by state. Find one near you and enjoy a frosty glass of cider this fall!


Photo source

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Thought of the Week

“…that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought as agriculture.”

-President Abraham Lincoln

Posted in Education, Farmers, For Kids, History of Agriculture, Thought of the Week | Leave a comment

The Sweetest Corn

There’s nothing quite like fresh summer fruits and veggies. Crisp watermelon, juicy peaches, tangy tomatoes, and of course, fresh sweet corn with kernels that “POP” in your mouth!

Sweet corn was developed right here in North America, when a natural genetic mutation in field corn converted the starches in corn to sugars. Native Americans in the Pennsylvania area grew several varieties of sweet corn, and the Iroquois passed it along to colonists in the late 1700s. Sweet corn has been a popular summer treat ever since.

Two cultivars that were developed in the 1800s are still popular today – “Country Gentleman” and “Stowel’s Evergreen.” You can find seeds for those online, and enjoy the same sweet corn that your great-great-great grandparents may have enjoyed!

Since then, many more varieties of sweet corn have been developed, using hybridization techniques to produce corn that is sweeter, more productive, and more disease resistant than previous strains. Today there are over 100 varieties of sweet corn, many with tasty-sounding names like “Bodacious,” “Honey and Cream” and “Honeytreat.”


A lovely field of corn. Photo source

Sweet corn is grown on over 25,000 farms in every state in the U.S., usually for local consumption.  Sweet corn has a short shelf-life and either needs to be eaten quickly, or canned or frozen to preserve its freshness. The majority of sweet corn, over 70%, is for the fresh market. California, Florida and Georgia are the largest producers for the fresh market, while Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin produce the most sweet corn for processing. Combined, over 2.6 million tons of sweet corn is produced in the United States.

Sweet corn is prepared and eaten in a bajillion different ways. Fresh off the stalk, lightly boiled, steamed, creamed, grilled, in breads, salads, soups, and even in ice cream! In other parts of the world, sweet corn is served on pizza (Japan), with beans (Latin America), or soaked with milk (Indonesia). If sweet corn is picked young, it is canned as baby corn. If sweet corn kernels are dried and cooked in oil, they expand and  turn into corn nuts instead of popping.

My favorite way is to boil fresh ears for just a few minutes to warm it up, then slick on some butter and salt! My mom’s favorite way to eat corn on the cob is straight out of the garden – just tear the ear off the stalk, then get rid of the silk and husk, and eat it right there, standing in the field!

What’s your favorite way to prepare sweet corn? Let us know!


Getting ready for some goodness! Photo source

Posted in Corn, History of Agriculture

Thought of the Week

Many factors may contribute to ending a civilization,
but an adequate supply of fertile soil is necessary to sustain one.
Using up or covering over the soil and moving onto new land will not be a viable option for future generations. 


Posted in Ag Production, Dirt, Education, Erosion, Farmland Preservation, Feeding the World, For Kids, Soil, Thought of the Week | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

 “I am entirely a farmer, soul and body, never scarcely admitting a sentiment on any other subject.”

-President Thomas Jefferson

Posted in Education, Farmers, History of Agriculture, Thought of the Week | Leave a comment

GMO Spud Sponsors Boise Olympic Cyclist

This week, 43 year old Kristin Armstrong, the two time Olympic gold medal winning cyclist from Boise will compete in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro with the distinction of being the first athlete ever sponsored by a crop bred using biotechnology.

She will also be raising awareness about the nutritional value of potatoes and Simplot Plant Sciences’ Innate line of genetically modified Russet Burbank and Ranger Russet potatoes in particular.

Marketed under the “White Russet” label, the first generation of Innate russets contains traits introduced from other potatoes to keep them from browning after cutting, to reduce bruising and reduce the formation of a potentially unhealthy chemical call acrylamide, which is found in certain fried foods.  The second generation of Innate, which awaits approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will include the original traits, plus enhanced cold storage and strong resistance to the destructive late blight pathogen.

“I’ve known the folks at Simplot for a long time, and since potatoes are an excellent source of energy and nutrition, this partnership makes sense, especially because White Russet potatoes have health and sustainability benefits,” Armstrong told Capital Press via email.  “There’s nothing in these potatoes but potato.”

Armstrong who works promoting healthy lifestyles with Boise’s St. Luke’s Medical Center, typically eats potatoes with her meals before racing, believing they give her a lift.  “Potatoes give me just the right combination of nutrients and energy, as well as potassium for leg recovery when I need it,” Armstrong said.

searchWhen she’s not competing, Armstrong will pose for photos in a White Russet jersey and she’ll assist Simplot with social media presence.  The sponsorship contract with Armstrong will expire next year, and then Simplot and Armstrong will re-evaluate it.

She’ll talk about how she uses potatoes in her training diet, and as an athlete and a mom, how a higher quality potato makes a lot of sense.  “I couldn’t be prouder to have the opportunity to once again represent my country in the Olympic games,” Armstrong said.  “I am obviously excited to be on the team, and am totally focused on my training so that I can win another gold medal for Team USA.”

We are proud of Kristin Armstrong, and appreciate her representing the Simplot Company and the potato industry at the Olympic games this year.


-Written by Jim O’Connell, Capital Press, July 22, 2016


Posted in #potatoes, Agvocacy and Social Media, Education, For Kids, GMOs, Hot Topics | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

We have to work with the soil not as a factory but as a living system.
The future of humanity depends as much on this philosophical realignment
as on technical advances in agrotechnology and genetic engineering.


Posted in Ag Production, Dirt, Education, Farmland Preservation, Feeding the World, For Kids, Soil, Thought of the Week | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

“I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals and other branches of husbandman’s cares.”

-President George Washington

Posted in Ag Production, Education, Farmers, Feeding the World, History of Agriculture, Thought of the Week | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

When our soils are gone, we must go unless we find some way to feed on raw rock.

-Thomas Chamberlain


Posted in Ag Production, Dirt, Education, Erosion, Farmland Preservation, Feeding the World, For Kids, Soil, Thought of the Week | Tagged , | Leave a comment