However, perhaps the most interesting thing I learn is how peas are harvested.
Both conventional and organic peas that are used for pea protein are grown to full maturity when the pods turn green. Then, they are left in the field to sun dry to a crisp brown. Conventional peas are sprayed with chemical fungicides at this point to accelerate their drying process. After all, the window of time before snow threatens to spoil the dry crop can close quickly.
Organic peas, on the other hand, are entirely sun dried without the aid of fungicides and pesticides.Once the peas are field dried, large harvesters collect them, and then they are mechanically sifted in a seed-cleaning machine where the weeds and chaff are separated.
Most of the family farms in this region, whether organic or conventional, are fourth or fifth generation. These are good, hard-working people who work long hours, and live in difficult, isolated conditions—all for the love of the land. Here, as in the United States, the family farm is a dying way of life. I’ve heard that these family farms all use organic practices when raising their peas, but the costs of certification are too high. It’s not true.
The cost of converting land to organic certified farm land is high. The farmer has to endure a three-year conversion in which they give up the use of chemical weed killers such as Roundup®, and they eliminate genetically modified seed crops from their field rotation. Yields during these conversion seasons are low, and the difficulty of purifying the land is a high barrier to organic farming.
But for the farmers that either preserved organic land or endured the difficulty of conversion, the farms are prolific. The environment in this region wants to produce—it’s naturally fertile. When indigenous species are planted and organic fertilizers are applied, the land responds well and the farmers have a more valuable, abundant harvest to sell. As I head back to my office, I think once again how special our farmers are. I am honored to know them—blessed when I visit them—and proud to bring their produce to our customers.