Soil & Sea: reports from our producers
This article was originally published in June 2014
The American hard cider industry is booming, but producers say there’s a shortage of the right kind of apples. To make good hard cider, you need apples with a lot of sugar — to encourage fermentation — and particular levels of acid and tannins. Many cider apples are heirloom varieties that went nearly extinct on American soil during Prohibition and haven’t been cultivated on a large scale since.
Chickens may be the newest trend in therapy animals. Already deployed to help with autism, hens now provide companionship and a hobby for the elderly. A few nursing homes have started keeping hens full-time.
Mexican lime production is down and prices are way up. Heavy rains late last year hurt the crop and a bacterium is infecting trees in some areas. Higher prices means organized crime thieves in Mexico are stealing truckloads of limes. Producers reportedly have had to hire armed security guards for the trip to the border.
Washington apple growers soon may sign up for a lottery to determine who plants the first trees of a new WSU apple variety currently known by its research name, WA 38, which is expected to be a consumer favorite when it’s on the market. It’s a crossbreed between the Enterprise and Honeycrisp varieties.
Tiny, delicate marine snails called pteropods (aka sea butterflies), a key part of the marine food web, are dissolving due to ocean acidification caused by increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research. In one study, 50 percent of pteropods sampled in coastal waters in Oregon and Washington had shells that looked like crumbling old cheese.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced $19 million in grants for young farmers. The grants, managed by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, are aimed at those trying to break into farming or have been at it for fewer than 10 years.