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A Parallel World of

Organic Products & Markets


The primary methods of organic farming involve crop rotation, soil management, composting, beneficial insects, and mulching. Many of the methods used in traditional farming are similar to organic farming. One example is an integrated strategy of pest manipulation. Using beneficial pests to prevent infestation of unwanted pests is an old practice. In conventional farming however, the use of synthetic pesticides is allowed, whereas it is not in organic farming.

The challenge of organic farming is in busting the myth that conventional farming provides a much higher yield. In fact, organic farming produces higher yields, with lower fertilizer and pesticide costs (using natural products is less expensive) and higher profitability. Organic goods tend to cost more than conventionally grown foods primarily because organic farms must employ more labor to care for and harvest the produce whereas conventional farms can rely on mechanical harvesters. The additional farming jobs brought by organic farming are considered a community builder, not a problem.

A Short History

Sir Albert Howard and his wife Gabrielle developed organic agriculture in the late 1930s. As botanists, they used their experience in traditional farming, and their formal scientific training. Sir Albert Howard was the first to apply scientific knowledge and principles to traditional and natural farming methods. Because of this research and experimentation, he is thought of as the “father of organic farming”.

In the 1940s, J.I. Rodale, another pioneer in organic agriculture, founded a working organic farm in the United States for trials and experimentation. He also founded The Rodale Institute and the Rodale Press to teach and promote organic farming to the public.

Since the 1940’s, organic farming has been practiced in the United States. In subsequent decades, organic farming went from small, experimental farms to the huge worldwide business that it is now. This escalation in the organic market created a need for a verification process that products are actually produced in accordance to certain standards. This is how the organic certification process was born.

The USDA Organic Rule, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) established the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. This list contains both synthetic and natural substances allowed and prohibited in organic farming and production. The NOSB recommend that substances on the list are tested not just for being “natural” but also they are to be tested for their short and long-term effects on the environment.

There are many agencies involved in the governance of the production of organic foods. They include The National Organic Program (NOP), a part of (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, which is the agency that sets marketing standards. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) mandates that the (USDA) develop national standards for organically produced agricultural food products to guarantee consumers that the agricultural products marketed as organic meet consistent, uniform standards.


Standards set forth by the OFPA regulate organic farming methods and sometimes the final production for organic agriculture. In the 1970s, private associations began certifying organic growers. The government instituted organic production guidelines in the 1980s. In 2002, the National Organic Program (NOP) was created.

On December 21, 2000, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service established the National Standards on Organic Agricultural Production and Handling (NOP rule). The standards in the NOP rule are comparable to what most of the organic producers and handlers use today. The standards had to be adaptable enough to cover the wide range of operations and organic products grown throughout the United States. The Organic Foods Production Act and the NOP rule mandates that all agricultural products labeled as organic originate from farms or handling operations certified by a state or private agency. Moreover, that these farms or handling operations must be accredited by USDA. Food labels were required to be in compliance by early 2001.

The NOP rule disallows the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge. The rule includes production and handling requirements, addressing organic crop production, wild crop harvesting and organic livestock management. Additional guidelines include The National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic Substances, labeling requirements for organic products; compliance, testing, fee, and state program approval requirements. Also, there are guidelines in the NOP rule, for certification, recordkeeping and accreditation requirements.

Organic Farming Practices

Organic farmers utilize the most environmentally responsible solutions to the problems of pests and disease that can affect their crops. These strategies include:

Crop rotation

Crop rotation is a farming strategy used by farmers for hundreds of years. Each year the location of crops shifts. For instance if you planted corn in one section of land, then the next year you will plant tomatoes in that plot. The benefit to the farmer is two fold. First, each crop will add a different nutrient to the soil. Second, rotating crops helps to suppress pests, because the crop rotation will interrupt the insect’s life cycle and their habitats are destroyed. This age-old custom can help eradicate the need for insecticides in crops.

Crop diversity is a unique trait of organic farming. Conventional farming is based on the mass production of one crop in one location. Agroecology is a science that has proven the benefits of growing multiple crops together. Planting various vegetable crops in the same space brings about a larger selection of beneficial insects and soil microorganisms. Crop diversity helps farmers, their land and the environment.

Cover crops

Cover Crops such as clover, rye, and wheat are often planted between growing seasons to help restore nutrients into the soil and prevent soil erosion. They also help preserve populations of beneficial insects and control weeds by crowding them out. Cover crops can aerate and fertilize the soil by adding organic matter when turned under. Sometimes cover crops are referred to as “green manure crops.”

Release beneficial insects

Organic farmers utilize natural predators or beneficial insects like ladybugs, soldier beetles, green lacewings, big-eyed bugs and beneficial nematodes that eat harmful insects, this approach naturally controls pests that destroy their crops without negative side effects. It also eliminates the need for chemical insecticides that can remain in the soil for years.

Soil management

Organic farming requires the natural breakdown of organic matter, using methods such as green manure and composting, to replace nutrients depleted by earlier crops. This biological process encourages the natural development of nutrients in the soil. Biological fertilizers like compost, release nutrients slowly, building up organic soil matter, increasing the soil’s capacity to retain moisture.

Reducing tillage also improves soil. By reducing tillage, soil less exposed to air and less carbon is lost to the atmosphere.  This results in more organic carbon soil, which has the added benefit of carbon sequestration reducing green house gases and aiding in reversing climate change. If all agriculture were organic, the climate benefit would be huge.

Weed management

Organic standards require rotation of annual crops including weed-suppressive cover crops, which helps weed management by encouraging weed suppression, rather than chemical weed eradication. Other farming methods used to reduce weed pressure include planting a selection of competitive crop varieties, tight row spacing and late planting into warm soil for rapid crop germination.

Weed control practices used by organic farmers include tillage or turning the soil between crops, adding soil amendments, removing weeds and preparing the soil for planting. Weeds can be also be controlled by grazing animals such as geese and ducks.


The market value of certified organic products in 2001 was estimated at $20 billion. In 2002, the estimate rose to $23 billion. In 2007, sales had escalated to $46 billion.  The market exploded by 2012 to $63 billion worldwide. The market for organic food continues to accelerate.

Farmers markets

A USDA survey of market managers determined that the demand for organic products was strong in the majority of the farmers markets surveyed throughout the US. Those

managers surveyed felt that more farmers growing organic produce were necessary to meet the growing consumer demand. The number of farmers markets in the United

States has grown progressively from 1,755 markets in 1994, at the beginning of the USDA tracking of them, to over 8,144 in 2013. More farmers are growing organic as a response to increasing demands for local, organic foods. Profitability has always been the bane to the small farmer, and farmers selling directly to the public provide higher returns.


Organic farms have been consistently more profitable than conventional farms. Using natural fertilizer and pesticides reduces the cost to the farmer; while the higher prices the public is willing to pay increases profitability. Because both farmers markets and supermarkets sell organic products for substantially higher prices than conventionally grown foods, organics are profitable for them. This up-pricing behavior has been changing in recent years. For the conscious buyer who compares prices, organic food is not always more expensive than non-organic food. In fact, since 2000, the prices of organic foods have reduced and now finding organic foods at a comparable price to conventional is no longer a problem.

Organic Sales Widen in All Food Categories

“USDA does not have official statistics on U.S. organic retail sales, but information is available from industry sources. U.S. sales of organic products were an estimated $28.4 billion in 2012—over 4 percent of total food sales—and will reach an estimated $35 billion in 2014”, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA) 93 percent of organic sales are through conventional and natural food markets. OTA estimates the remaining 7 percent of U.S. organic food sales occur through farmers markets and foodservice (restaurants).

The top selling group of organically grown foods for over three decades is fresh fruits and vegetables. They continue to be the top sellers in the organic market. Produce accounted for 43 percent of U.S. organic food sales in 2012, followed by dairy (15 percent), packaged/prepared foods (11 percent), beverages (11 percent), bread/grains (9 percent), snack foods (5 percent), meat/fish/poultry (3 percent), and condiments (3 percent).


Cynde Christie has been writing and editing for many years. After a long career as a tax specialist, Cynde edited doctoral dissertations for over a decade. Upon retirement, Cynde embarked on a new career as a Santa Fe Watercolorist, and a community volunteer, cooking with Kitchen Angels. Cynde is an avid organic gardener, and lives a parallel life using solar electricity and rain catchment systems to irrigate her extensive vegetable, herb and flower gardens. Cynde is the co-editor of, and a writer for, A Parallel World.


A Parallel World of

CSA and Urban Farming

The Challenge

Participating in a CSA or growing your own garden is a powerful path to good nutrition and a sustainable economy. As fuel costs rise, the real costs of food grown further away will increase proportionately. Local action now, guarantees food security through supply, quality, and farmland retention for the future.

A Short History of the CSA and Urban Farming


CSA stands for Community Sustained Agriculture or Community Supported Agriculture. Either one farm markets through crop shares, or several market collaboratively. During the past 20 years, over 6,000 CSAs have been created.

Supporting local farms increases stability to their income by ensuring sales earlier in the year. Often, selling stored or preserved food during the winter months sustains the farm. Additionally, increasing the farmer’s ability to expand production through a more stable income, increases capital for farmland acquisition.

Farmers enjoy making a connection with the people who eat the food they grow. Of the almost two million farms in the USA, about 80% of those are small farms, and a large percentage is family owned. More and more of these farmers are now selling their products directly to the public.

Each time we make a conscious effort; local farms are supported with less farmland lost to development. Over 2,500 CSAs are listed in the Local Harvest national grassroots database ( and the number of CSAs is growing by about 20% each year.

Urban Farming

The urban farm or garden, characterized by growing in small spaces, is making a come back in the U.S. Families are striving to save on their food budget or are concerned about securing a safe and nutritious food supply. The return to this social movement for sustainable communities improves both food security and food safety.

During World War I, the federal government called upon Americans to grow food in small plots. By 1919, over 5 million plots grew over 500 million pounds of food a year. The National Victory Garden movement during World War II stimulated 5.5 million Americans to grow gardens.

The Cuban example has demonstrated the viability of small, sustainable farming. The U.S. embargo in 1960 against shipping food to Cuba brought forth a local determination to produce food. In Havana, 90% of fresh produce comes from urban farms and gardens, involving more than 200,000 Cubans.

Today, there are an estimated 18,000 Community Gardens throughout the United States and Canada. Supplemental food production is now gaining rapidly in practice due to concern over loss of nutritional heirloom varieties. Retaining food production knowledge is also a contemporary concern.

Another benefit of urban gardens and farms is social interaction. Community garden plots and small farms further collaborative action and sharing values. The American Community Garden Association ( offers information on starting a garden or locating one to join.

How a CSA Works

A farm offers a certain number of harvest “shares,” like a membership, to the public. Typically, the share consists of a box of vegetables and fruits and some farms offer extended choices such as eggs, homemade bread, or meat. Cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products may be available for an extra cost.

Interested consumers purchase a share, usually for a minimum of four weeks, of seasonal produce available each week throughout the year. Some CSAs are available year round, featuring dried and winter stored produce, such as squash, apples, dried beans and greenhouse-grown vegetables. The usual cost for a small family share is about $25 a week for a very generous amount of vegetables, serving a family of four.

A CSA is set up at a drop point, for a specific period of time. A few deliver door to door. A share either is boxed up or is available at the pick-up location. Large boxes of different produce are displayed on tables with a sign explaining the quantity allowed per CSA member, per pick up.

How an Urban Farm or Garden Works

The underlying purpose of the urban garden is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening. The family garden occupies yard space, a green house, or even a rooftop. Local government sometimes allocates land for the collaborative community garden or, a landowner provides use.

Tasks are shared from planting, to tending and harvesting. Organizational development is helpful, in addition to workshops on the stages of planting and growing. Specific topics that are useful include community organizing, leadership development, grassroots fundraising, communications, and coalition building.

Often, classes are offered on food preservation and nutrition. Creating an organization leads to stability and long-range viability of the garden.

The Nutritional Advantage

The produce from a CSA or an urban farm is often organic (40% more nutrition gained on the average), and usually is pesticide free. Just ask before you sign up to ensure that this is so. Besides freshness, the CSA provides variation in diet by the seasons (i.e. more range in nutritional benefits).

Urban farms or gardens offer top-level freshness when produce is picked and eaten the same day. The gardener selects the varieties, often heirloom, and can choose to avoid pesticides.  Avoiding the nutritional loss from grocery store produce transported 1,500 miles translates to more food value for your money.

Direct relationships with farmers lend an opportunity to learn about new food varieties and growing techniques. One important benefit of a CSA or growing your own is your ability to ask questions about how your food is produced. You can truly learn what you are purchasing and putting into your body—reliably.

Enjoy Food Security

Every year of buying or growing locally contributes to an expansion of the total local food supply. Reducing dependency on the poor nutrition varieties grown for maximum profit, genetic modification and pesticide-laden food increases good health. The CSA farming movement is growing in the opposite direction from long distance food grown by agri-biz— which is the choice available in most supermarkets.

Your best protection is to speak directly with the person who grows your food or to grow your own. Express your vote for local food with every bite!

Susan Guyette, Ph.D. is of Métis heritage (Micmac Indian/Acadian French) and a planner specializing in cultural centers, museums, cultural tourism, and native foods. She is the author of Sustainable Cultural Tourism: Small-Scale Solutions; Planning for Balanced Development; and the co-author of Zen Birding: Connect in Nature

A Parallel World of

Community and Home Gardening

The Challenge

A Community Garden is a piece of land divided into multiple plots to share the experience of growing food. Each plot is assigned to an individual or family to garden. The community garden provides both the land and the opportunity to learn to cultivate fruits and vegetables. Community members often share their gardening experience with the less experienced gardeners. Many schools, churches and other organizations use the group gardening concept to educate children as well as to provide food for shelters and other centers for distributing food to the poor and homeless. Gardening in all forms also provides a threshold for small local commerce, education, and recreation.

The challenge of lowering food costs and energy footprint with both community and home gardens is that many people resist gardening because they are concerned about the time and effort involved. However, those who take the challenge reap rich rewards.

Many Home Gardeners began as community gardeners. After honing their gardening skills, they replace many of the food sources previously used with homegrown vegetables. The enjoyment of seeing vegetables grow and “picking dinner” coupled with the amazing taste and peak nutrition of freshly picked produce is one reason why the number of gardeners continues to increase. Organic gardeners often harvest and trade seeds with other organic gardeners since unlike GMO (patented corporate) hybrid seeds, they reproduce to grow new crops. Community gardening can thus be self-sustaining. < >

A Short History of Community and Home Gardens

People have enjoyed growing their own food throughout history. The “Victory Gardens” of World Wars I and II were an early gardening effort primarily based on economics. The thought was that growing food for their families (home) and others (community) saved resources for use in the war effort.  As a side benefit, the gardens boosted morale for the civilians in the US, UK, Canada and other participating countries.

Globally gardeners provide much food, herbs for remedies and flowers for beauty. In Russia today, 40% of food consumed comes from home gardens. There are many different types of gardens.  In France, the Potager type garden is a combination ornamental, vegetable and kitchen (herb) garden. In this type of garden, flowers and herbs grow with vegetables for esthetics and soil enrichment.  In many nations, gardening is an important part of daily life.

Community Gardens

Community and home gardens have been increasing in number and popularity for a number of reasons. First, the experience of “growing your own” is appealing to many people. Second, the cost of industrially produced food continues to rise in an ever-decreasing economy. More and more people have become aware of the poor nutritional quality of processed food. They realize that they are paying far more for far less value. Growing your food remains in reach for most people, regardless of their economic status. Food grown in the back yard uses no fuel for shipping and very little for maintenance. Third, gardening is the best way to guarantee pure, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Gardening, in a community or home environment improves people’s quality of life by increasing neighborhood engagement and community development.  Gardening also provides social interaction through trading harvests, seeds and knowledge, while lowering food budgets, and using less energy and fewer resources.

Community gardeners all over the nation have joined forces in the The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA). ACGA “is a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities. The Mission of the American Community Gardening Association is to build community by increasing and enhancing community gardening and greening across the United States and Canada.”   <>

Home Gardens

Most gardens are one of these three types: Organic, Natural and Biodynamic. Organic and Natural gardening are the most widely practiced. <:>

A fourth type, Conventional, using harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers is declining in most areas except for the corporate based mass food manufacturers. Most community and home gardeners today try to avoid these toxic products.

Organic gardeners do not use any harmful chemicals in the soil or on the plants. They use composted (decayed) vegetation and manures to fertilize. Organic soil amendments include grass clippings, kitchen scraps, hay, straw, etc. Crop rotation is a very important element of Organic gardening. Rotating the crops helps to prevent the leaching of nutrients from the soil.  Certain vegetables leave nutrients in the soils that benefit other vegetables. For instance, planting corn in a bed one season and then planting tomatoes in that same space the following season makes for very healthy tomatoes. However, a little research is a good idea for crop rotation because there are combinations that are not beneficial. Do not plant potatoes near tomatoes: both are nightshade plants and they share a blight that will kill the potato. Organic gardeners tend to be very environmentally aware, and as a result, do not use chemical pesticides.

Natural gardeners are similar to the Organic gardener; however, they tend to be more liberal about their choice of soil amendments. As long as the chemicals are minimal, a product is acceptable.  Natural soil amendments include bone meal, fish emulsion, kelp spray, cottonseed meal, etc., which may or may not be organic. Natural gardeners generally avoid chemical pesticides.

Biodynamic gardeners are even more particular than Organic gardeners are. Like organic gardeners, Biodynamic gardeners use no chemicals in their growing. In addition, they conform to planting schedules based on astronomy, religion and season.

Most gardens contain garden beds for planting. The beds either are at ground level or are in wooden or stone frames raised above ground level. Raised beds are convenient since the gardener does not have to bend as far to reach the ground. The soil used in these beds must be prepared by mixing nutrients such as compost (decayed vegetation) or hummus into it. This provides food for robust vegetable growth.  Every gardener also has a set of small hand tools, including a trowel and spade to dig, a forked cultivator, clippers, twine for tying up vines, a hose, wheelbarrow, etc., and of course, seeds.

Many organic gardeners save seeds from the best plants in a successful crop to use the following year. They also trade seeds with other organic farmers, multiplying the effect of community feeding community.




American Community Growers Association:

CDC/Healthy Places/Community Gardens:

Seeds of Change:

Cynde Christie has been writing and editing for many years. After a long career as a tax specialist, Cynde edited doctoral dissertations for over a decade. Upon retirement, Cynde embarked on a new career as a Santa Fe Watercolorist, and a community volunteer, cooking with Kitchen Angels. Cynde is an avid organic gardener. She lives a parallel life using solar electricity and rain catchment systems to irrigate her extensive vegetable, herb and flower gardens. Cynde is the co-editor of and a writer for A Parallel World.



A Parallel World of

Farm-to-Table Restaurants

The Challenge

The term Farm-to-Table suggests a return to the ways of food grown locally and eaten in nearby homes and restaurants. Growing food locally supports local economies while providing better taste and nutrition in the foods we eat. The challenge of the Farm-to-Table movement is to encourage a paradigm shift in how people view the importance of locally produced food. Creating Farm-to-Table sustainability in the local farm community requires an economic commitment from the consumers or the “Table” to continued demand from the “Farm”. Farm-to-Table only works when Table-to-Farm demand is in place. This exchange of supply and demand encourages a stable local economic environment and a healthier “eating out” experience.

A Short History of Farm to Table Restaurants

When Americans settled in the New World, food grew within a short distance of where it was consumed. Then as roads and highways expanded transportation and as people dispersed, convenience became more important in food purchasing. Ingredients used for cooking in restaurants began being shipped from far away and as a result had to be processed for transportation. Unfortunately, the “progress” generated by the mass production of food for wider distribution created a number of problems in society. These include obesity, rampant diabetes, and unemployment. It takes fewer people to push a button on a conveyer belt than it does to sow seeds and hand pick vegetables.

The Farm-to-Table restaurant movement has changed the standard thinking by valuing quality over ease and convenience. Such restaurants have existed for decades; however, it was not until about ten years ago, that the locavore movement began to thrive. The first Farm-to-Table restaurants emerged in the 60s and 70s, in Berkeley, CA and Seattle, WA, when locally grown organic food became popular. Farmer’s markets began to spring up in many communities as more people began supporting local farmers. Innovative chefs began purchasing directly from farmers, or growing vegetables and herbs on small plots of land near their restaurants in order to guarantee the freshest of ingredients. This in turn guaranteed better taste for their customers. In response, customers enthusiastically continued their patronage.

Food Safety

Processed foods generally contain large amounts of sugar, fat, sodium and diverse chemicals. Eating processed foods can and has lead to health problems for many Americans such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Farm-to-Table restaurants use local, seasonal food, which is simply prepared, or in some cases, even served raw.

Millions of Americans become ill from food. Thousands per year–mostly the very young and elderly–die as a result. Contaminants such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) in meat and apple juice, Salmonella in eggs, Cyclospora on fruit, threaten the health of many.

Food safety in the United States is regulated by six agencies in the federal government. These include two agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)–the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition are three agencies under the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rounds out the group tasked with food safety. These agencies work with the many constituencies interested in food safety to identify food related public-health risks and devise strategies to reduce these risks. Yet they are so understaffed with inspectors and so under funded that the risks of toxins and disease are barely monitored and not well controlled.

Food Security 

Food security, a phrase coined at the 1974 at the World Food Conference, refers to the ongoing reliable availability of food. The concern for food security around the world has existed for decades. While there are adequate food supplies in most areas of the US, many communities worldwide are plagued with hunger and starvation. According to the FOA (Food and Agriculture Organization), food security only exists when all people have access to food.

The Farm-to-Table movement is one reason for the growth in the local farming industry. The more operating local farms, the more food security in local communities. The idea of mass food production was once considered a way to solve the problem of feeding nations. It is now evident that the food produced in these industries is nutritionally substandard.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

Jobs are an obvious economic benefit of the Farm-to-Table movement. Mass produced packaged foods require less labor in restaurants. Foods that come processed and fryer-ready reduce the need for employees in the kitchen and reduce the quality of meals produced.   Farm-to-Table provides work for the farmers, and kitchen workers thereby adding jobs that benefit the economy of the local community. A local Farm-to-Table economy creates strong incentives for maintaining high quality control in a much shorter supply chain, reducing energy waste too.

Shipping produce well before it is ripe is necessary for fruits and vegetables grown hundreds or thousands of miles from where they are purchased. Unfortunately, picking crops without letting them “ripen on the vine” prevents many of the nutrients from forming. Consequently, “factory farms” produce fruit and vegetables with little nutritional value. Food crops, such as tree fruits are picked green, and then gassed at their destination to color up the product and make it look ripe. “According to the definition adopted by the US Congress in the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, the total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a local or regional agricultural food product is less than 400 miles from its origin.” <>

“Local food is not only healthier and tastier, it is also better for the environment because fewer transport miles equal fewer transmissions. According to a study conducted by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, food travels 1,500 miles on average from farm to customer while locally sourced food travels an average of 44.6 miles. The same study found that the conventional food distribution system uses 4 to 17 times more fuel and emits 5 to 17 times more CO2 than local and regional systems.” <>

The Farm-to-Table restaurants movement has begun the way back to healthy, minimal food production and more delicious and nutritious meals. This contribution has encouraged not only better restaurants, but also more income for farmers who spend in their local communities, which in turn helps the local economy.


Cynde Christie has been writing and editing for many years. After a long career as a tax specialist, Cynde edited doctoral dissertations for over a decade. Upon retirement, Cynde embarked on a new career as a Santa Fe Watercolorist, and a community volunteer, cooking with Kitchen Angels. Cynde is an avid organic gardener. She lives a parallel life using solar electricity and rain catchment systems to irrigate her extensive vegetable, herb and flower gardens. Cynde is the co-editor of and a writer for A Parallel World. 



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