Don’t Judge a Tomato


These tomatoes were harvested Thanksgiving week – picture taken just before Christmas.

Readers may remember that I was given some leggy tomato seedlings last spring. While I was immediately impressed with the cherry tomato, I couldn’t get excited about the other one. The second tomato was supposed to be a stabilized open-pollinated variety derived from the hybrid Big Boy. The original Big Boy is an OK tomato, but this one had some deficits. First, it seemed to take a lot longer to ripen than similar tomatoes. Second, the skin was tough. Third, it didn’t really have very good flavor, especially when compared to my old standbys, Mortgage Lifter and Marmande. But the plants were in the ground, and they were free, so I let them take up garden space in the interests of a fair trial. The fact that I was busy and always behind and it was too much effort to rip them out and start over did not – of course – influence my decision.

“Leggy” is probably a bit of an understatement for these seedlings.

All tucked in; now I cross my fingers!

Fast forward to October. The tomatoes were still producing quite well, even though they still seemed to take longer to ripen. Finally, in late November, I picked them all because we were expecting a hard frost. Several were almost ripe. All had at least a tinge of orange. They sat in a bowl on the counter, gradually getting riper. Several weeks later, they were sweet, with just a touch of tartness for balance. The tough skin had thinned. Even after they were clearly fully ripe, it was as if they were in stasis. Only one showed any signs of deterioration. I finally ate the last of them Christmas week.
In retrospect, my mistake was assuming these were a summer tomato. Apparently, they are more of a late-ripening, long-holding tomato. They are more like Long Keeper (of which, I must admit, I have never been particularly fond). So, I guess I’ll rethink the idea of saving seeds from this tomato. Even when you’re an old gardener, it is possible to learn new tricks.

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Seed Cartels Update


Small seed companies face a constant struggle to avoid being swallowed up by the big ones.

Three years ago, I wrote a post on market consolidation in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries. I commented that seed cartels were not all that different than drug cartels in the effects they have on our lives. When I did the research for an update, I expected it would be worse. I did not expect that it would be so much worse. Diversity is the sign of health – doesn’t matter whether you’re talking biology, human work teams or agricultural and pharmaceutical products. Monopolies are dangerous – it’s the old absolute power corrupts absolutely theme. Here’s the latest on seed cartels, which is fall 2017 and some earlier data, so odds are the picture is in reality even less rosy. While I use the term seed cartels, there are also pharmaceutical cartels, equipment cartels and similar groups in many markets.

Seed Cartels and Agrochemical Companies
Although there were 20 seed companies large enough to be considered for a Top 20 list in 2017, two have cornered almost 53% of the market. Monsanto and Bayer merged in 2018 and now have 30% of the tặng tiền miễn phíseed market under their combined belts. Dow/Dupont did the same, for 22.7% of the market. The next “big” company is Syngenta, with a piddling 7.8% of market share. Mind you, this is just seeds – both also market herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and such. In agrochemicals, it’s Bayer/Monsanto at 27.4%, Syngenta/Chem China at 26.9% and Dupont/Dow AgroScience at 18.8%, respectively. If you add in German firm BASF, these companies control 75% of the global pesticide market.

Livestock Breeding/Genetics
Although it’s a smaller group in this field, the picture looks much the same as it does for seed cartels. Tyson Foods is the big boy in the sandbox, with WH Group in Hong Kong as the number two. These two companies control 90% of layer poultry genetics. There are only three companies supplying nearly all of the pig breeding stock in the world.

Pharmaceutical Companies
Big pharma companies can be in the people business, the animal business or both. The top three in the animal end are Zoetis (used to be Pfizer AH), with 20% of the market, Merck/MSD at 14.5% and Sanofi/Merial AH at 11.5%. The human pharmaceutical industry made at least $1.11 trillion in 2017. The top five in 2017 were Merck, at $35.4 billion; Johnson &Johnson, at $36.3 billion; Sanofi, at $36.66 billion; Roche, with $44.36 billion in income, and the top dog, Pfizer, which brought in $52.54 billion. Please note the overlap between human and animal pharmaceutical control here.

Consolidation and Concentration
So why is this a problem? Well, the ETC group (which stands for Erosion, Technology and Concentration) has identified four major concerns. These are:

  • Farmer income and autonomy diminishes – if you need breeding stock or want to sell your products, you have limited sources for both. In order to survive, many farmers are forced into contracts in which the big companies tell them what and when to plant, what animals to buy, what to feed their animals, what medications they can use and so on. Around 90% of chicken farmers in the US operate under these conditions.
  • Corporate sustainability and innovation dwindles – research in areas other than your narrowly defined scope of products dwindles; 40% of private research dollars currently go to a single crop – maize, or corn. Smaller firms are more likely to have commitments to sustainability; as they are bought out and become part of the seed cartels, so does the companies’ focus (although the ads may tout the previous values even when in practice they’ve been gutted).
  • Environmental and public health standards decline – food-borne diseases rise with consolidated farming (think salmonella, E. coli and resistant super-bugs). You have much less diversity in breeding stock; overall, diversity in available breeding stock has declined by 90% across the board since the 1960s. A while back, someone went looking for a non-GMO source of seed stock in some plant and couldn’t find one. Insecticides are wiping out insect populations, especially the pollinators we need to grow food. Herbicides are wiping out insect food sources.
  • Corporate control of public policy surges – this is huge. Dominant companies increase their market share, which means they have plenty of money for kick-backs, bribes and “donations” meant to sway policy-makers, schools and research. For example, university-affiliated researchers are hired by corporations to provide “independent expertise” to government regulators; what these so-called independent experts really are is tặng tiền miễn phílobbyists for the big corporations. The tặng tiền miễn phírevolving door means that people from big corporations move into government positions or move from government regulatory positions into the tặng tiền miễn phíindustries they previously regulated. Do you think there might be an inherent conflict of interest there?
  • Finally, as ETC says: “Concentration of power allows corporations to have major influence on the global governance of food systems, especially international trade policies and agreements.”
  • I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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    Pantry Principles – Pantry Management


    Yes, I know, that’s high-fructose corn syrup on the shelf – hubby likes it on pancakes, waffles and french toast. Since he gets it infrequently, I figure it won’t kill him anytime soon. I don’t eat the stuff at all.

    Anyone who reads this blog or my book You Might be a Ranch Wife knows I’m always going on about pantry management and keeping the pantry well-stocked. There are distinct advantages to a well-stocked pantry, not the least of which is your ability to survive a zombie apocalypse. Here are some others:

  • Having a variety of staples in the pantry means you can put a meal together even when you happen to be out of a key ingredient for a particular recipe. So wheat pancakes become some other kind of tặng tiền miễn phípancake.
  • You save time, money and mileage if you go to town only rarely.
  • You won’t starve. We could eat very well for at least three months, especially when the cow is in milk. We could then eat reasonably well for at least another three months, although the variety might be less. For many foods, we could go a year without needing to restock.
  • You’re always ready when someone drops by unexpectedly. Ranch wives have always been known for their ability to stretch a meal or offer a nice midday treat to a visiting neighbor.
  • The artificial salt lurking behind the jar of baking soda is useful for making my own Gatorade when someone is sick or dehydrated. It’s high in potassium.

    In order to obtain these benefits, however, one must manage the pantry. That means you have to track what’s on the shelves, make sure food gets rotated and note things down to restock. It also means you have to clean and organize occasionally – my least favorite part of pantry management. Today it was the shelves in the kitchen. I figure they’ll look nice for about a week, and then they’ll be back to the usual clutter that occurs when you have husbands and grand-kids rooting around in the pantry.

    One of my goals for next year is to expand my plantings of fresh herbs so I can decrease my reliance on store-bought.

    A quick glance will tell you that this is the stuff I need right at my elbow – basics like salt, baking powder, cocoa, baking soda, spices, vinegar and cornstarch. In some cases (as with the baking soda or cocoa), I’ve decanted some into a small container because I don’t have room for five pound packages on the shelves. There are also much larger containers of things like beans out in the wash house. You’ll see a mix of stuff we’ve grown ourselves (like the little brown bottle of celery seed) as well as stuff I’ve purchased. While I can grow my own paprika and peppers for chili powder, for example, cinnamon and nutmeg must come from faraway lands. Luckily, a little goes a long way. This year I have more store-bought spice combinations on the shelf, however, because my peppers just didn’t do well at all. Spices are often used as stocking stuffers in my family, which is how I wound up with cardamom and saffron – neither of which I’m likely to use any time soon.
    Now that things are neatened up in here, I guess it’s time to tackle the freezers and canned goods (sigh). Like a lot of things around here, pantry management is pretty much of a never-ending story…

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