Romaine Lettuce Grown In UV-Protected Green House Versus Outdoors With Full Exposure To Sunlight, Solar Radiation, And Bugs - Red Dirt Farm Versus Kahuku Harvest In Hawaiian Ocean View Estates - Organic Produce - Hybrid Seeds - Heirloom Seeds - What Makes For A More Robust And Delicious Salad Vegetable?

Healthful Diet and Lifestyle, Environmental Toxins, And Multiple Chemical Sensitivities - January 21, 1999


I've been deliberating over which of two local farms to buy my greens and other veggies from.  Both farms utilize organic practices.  Kahuku Harvest grows only lettuce.  It's an outdoor farm that uses hybrid seeds, a little chemical fertilizer, and no chemical pesticides or herbicides.  It's lettuce is very tasty and robust.  Debra Hilton's farm [Red Dirt Farm?] is all grown inside a large greenhouse that uses raised cedar beds and a UV-protected roof (a plastic sheeting material that reduces incoming ultraviolet radiation). Debra uses both hybrid and heirloom seeds to produce twenty varieties of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans. She uses NO fertilizers or pesticides -- whether chemical or organically-approved.  It's produce is delicious, but appears to be more fragile -- i.e., "weaker" -- than that of the hardy outdoor produce of Kahuku Harvest.  Though Red Dirt Farm's may be more pure, and may possess a greater concern for the spiritual dimension of agriculture (the owner is an intense Buddhist meditator), I like the robustness of the five varieties of lettuce coming from Kahuku Harvest.  Kahuku Harvest's romaine lettuce is fantastic, and stays fresh longer in the refrigerator, too.  It's also about half of the price of the Red Dirt Farm produce.  But Debra delivers a cooler-full of produce to my house every week. (Whereas I have to pick up the Kahuku Harvest lettuce myself.)  Plus, I enjoy cutting up Debra's bok choy, giant red mustard, purple kale, and other greens into my dinner each night -- items that are not available from Kahuku Harvest.  I feel that these greens are strengthening me.  I use them as a layer over which I place a ready-made organic meal (like some rice or pasta dish), organic olive oil, and organic garlic.  It's delicious.  But one problem I have is that I get so much greens each week from Red Dirt Farm that by the time of the next delivery I haven't finished them yet.  So I need to work on increasing my intake of greens.  I've been using the baby lettuce greens from Debra for my midday salad at school.  But nothing -- I mean NOTHING -- beats the romaine from Kahuku Harvest.  It has large, robust, juicy leaves that are never bitter. But at this point I cannot possibly eat the combined product of both farms.  So, for the time being, I will go with Red Dirt Farm, largely on account of its variety, purity, and ease of procurement.

Some final notes.  Are hybrid seeds okay?  I say yes.  Cross pollination is natural.  It occurs in nature.  The off-spring of two different species of plant is called a hybrid.  The hybrid carries the combined traits of it's parents.  The problem is that when the hybrid makes seeds, those seeds are unpredictable.  They will display either the traits of the original father or the original mother.  So, you go back to square one with the hybrids' offspring.  But it appears fairly harmless, and it's infinitely safer than genetic engineering, where scientists splice a gene of one plant and combine it with the gene of a vastly different plant or animal, creating a hundred unintended consequences for every intended one.  Genetic engineering is dangerous.  There is no wisdom guiding the mating process, nor intelligence shepherding the selection of traits.  To think that humans can take over responsibly such a subtle process is great folly.

I may yet go back to buying my produce from Kahuku Harvest.  I am not a purist in an absolute sense.  If they use a little chemical fertilizer, that's not a big problem for me.  They main thing is that their crop feels so vital to me.  Vitality, rather than purity, is more of what I'm about.  But you should always be looking to move toward greater purity.  I also have a problem with growing plants in a UV-protected space.  It doesn't seem sustainable to me to have plants adapt to an artificial environment like that.  We need plants and people who can handle the real world.  

Comment from 2011.12.28.

I originally wrote this piece without ascribing names to the farms. I know Kahuku Harvest is the right name, as it is referred to in the attached "Ka'u To South Kona Water Master Plan - March 2004" (pdf). But both the other farm's name and its owner I don't recall with one hundred percent certainty. I used Debra's veggies service only for a short while. I just wasn't able to tolerate large quantities of deep leafy greens like kale and chard. I much prefer to tank up on romaine lettuce, so I went back to Kahuku Harvest after not too long.


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