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The Kneeling Gardeners recently held their monthly meeting at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kannapolis. The guest speaker for the meeting was Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie from N.C. State University Department of Horticulture.

Perkins heads the research on postharvest physiology and technology for fruits and vegetables for N.C. State. Her research involves storage methods to extend the shelf life and to determine fruit and vegetable roles in human health, storage technologies to enhance functional food compounds, and the identification and quantification of health-related compounds in fruits and vegetables and from production systems. She evaluates for safety, quality and consumer-appeal characteristics such as flavor, color, antioxidants and texture to make sure growers will have better quality fruits and vegetables for high-value markets.

Perkins explained what organic production is. It is the systemic approach to farming that is focused on integration of cultural biological, mechanical practices to foster cycling of resources to promote ecological balance for plants and livestock. The general rule of thumb is that it must be of natural origin rather than synthetic (i.e., fertilizers, some pesticides). Certified organic means that rules and paperwork have been met and inspected by an auditor.

We were allowed to do a little testing on our own with blueberries. Organic vs. conventional. Perkins brought blueberries for us to taste for the actual sugar content. She had us come forward and use little Zip-loc bags with two or three blueberries for each type of blueberry and mash them up in the bag to make a puree to put in the machines. This was very engaging for the audience.

When it comes to quality and flavor, organic is not always better than conventional. Organic does not mean pesticide-free, only that approved pesticides for use on organic have been used. It is better to vary our diet and know that the supplier is trustworthy and possibly buy reduced pesticides if organic is outside your budget.

The website covers how to select produce and how to take care of it in easy to follow language. The value of organic production is usually 1½ to 3 times more than conventional and makes up 5.4 percent of the marketplace. Most popular are fruits and vegetables. In the United States, the organic sector of the market shows a 2 percent gain per year.

This was a wonderful Power Point presentation to help educate us on the research being conducted regarding the organic fruits and vegetables vs. conventional gardening methods.

If you are interested in gardening, join us Jan. 27 at 7 p.m., when Mary Bradford from Tropic Exotic Bird Refuge will be the speaker. We meet at Trinity United Methodist Church, 416 E. First St., Kannapolis.

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