At ONF we have constructed 78 raised beds. Each of these beds are 4 x 16 feet, constructed from cinder blocks, and are filled with a media of composted cotton burrs, fafard, and parboiled rice hulls.
The composted cotton burrs consist of 100% natural organic material that is free of weed seeds, pesticides, defoliants, and disease organisms. Composted cotton burrs can reduce soil compaction while increasing the soil’s ability to retain moisture, resulting in a rich, mellow soil that contains nutrients necessary for lush plant growth. This is an organic, humus product processed from West Texas cotton burrs. It is superior in many ways to other soil additives because it will not tie up soil nutrients for decay, like peat moss and pine bark mulch, contains no pathogenic bacteria and will not create food safety hazards on food crops like fresh animal manures and contain more than double the nutrients of barnyard manure.
Things you should know when selecting vegetables
Sugars and complex acids only develop while the vegetables are growing and connected to its roots. Once it's harvested, the challenge is to maintain that sugar content. If a crop is picked too green, you may be able to get it to change color and soften but with a few exceptions the flavor won't improve beyond what it was when it was picked. The longer you can leave it in the field while preserving keeping qualities, the better the taste and nutrition.
Produce that is picked in the early morning and then kept cool will have the highest quality. If produce is picked later in the day cooling within an hour of harvest will significantly improve its quality. Vegetables are living things that have a respiration rate after they're picked - they consume O2 and given off CO2 and heat. Produce self-cools when its attached to its roots. Once its harvested, it no longer has that ability and starts gaining heat from the environment. The keeping quality of the produce depends on the ability to remove field heat and slow down the vegetables metabolic rate. Water or ice works best and is most efficient. The trick with water is removing the water as much as possible before final packing because sitting in dampness promotes decay. Once the heat is removed and the metabolic rate is slowed the produce should be maintained under optimal conditions including keeping it at the correct temperature.
The upshot of this is that finding fresh picked and appropriately cooled vegetables at your local grocery store is very difficult since most vegetables and fruits are grown outside of Missouri. On the other hand, produce from Ozarks Natural Foods is typically picked within 48 hours of selling time, cooled down and presented for sale allowing you to enjoy fruits and vegetables at their height of flavor and nutrition.
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