Thinking Beyond Organic

November 24, 2013
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Horn of plenty

One of the reasons that we got into this business was that we felt it was impossible to know where our food was really coming from when you purchase at a chain grocery store.

Even if a label said ‘organic’ (certified term) or ‘grass-fed’ (not certified and often an elaboration) there was still much left to the imagination.  So what about the rest of it? In our efforts to eat healthier, and be more sustainable and eco-conscious with our food choices, we started exploring local farms for food. We quickly realized that we could help a lot of people that have the same questions we did.

We spent time meeting farmers and learning about the food they produce. Having a small farm in a time when so many large factory farms have cornered the market has made things very difficult for them business wise, and for us health-wise. These were farms that were naturally doing things better, wanting to provide food locally which would also be better for the environment, and often suffering in spite of that.

About Organic Certification
‘Certified Organic’ is a very useful label when you can’t visit the farm (or know someone who has!), it gives us guidelines that help us shop better, but it doesn’t stop companies from putting bad stuff in their organic food (see our potato chip example). Plus the guidelines for organic foods have MANY loopholes.

One thing we’ve learned is that for most small farms, the process of being actually certified organic is extremely cost prohibitive. It is very expensive to go through the certification as it is a system designed for large factory farms, and small farms simply can’t carry those costs. In addition to this, when it comes down to it, being organic is not enough, the whole picture is what we were looking for, and that goes beyond the organic label.

According to the USDA “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”

Why we don’t buy organic
We search for and sell the best products that are produced here and none of the farms that we purchase from are organic. Repeat, NONE. Like many small farms across america, they follow the above and much more. They do not use GMO (genetically modified organisms) feed or added hormones and antibiotics.

Organic does not require free range living. 
Our animals live and wander in real pastures that are not treated with pesticides. The harshest ‘pesticide’ used on the land our animals are raised on is vinegar, and the animals are treated humanly throughout their life.

Organic does not require animals to feed on what they would naturally, grass and foraging.
You can have organic grain-fed animals that are contained and never see grass. All our animals are feeding on what they naturally should feed on and are not unnaturally fattened on grains.  The farms that we commit our business to provide a naturally healthy product for us. As Joel Salatin would say, ‘Beyond Organic’. Interview with Joel here.

When to buy organic
We don’t always have the luxury to know exactly where our food is coming from, and talk to the farmer (always the best option), and in those cases organic can be helpful in separating the really bad from the maybe not so bad. This is most useful when picking:

Fruits and vegetables
In this case pesticides are not supposed to be used.

Spices
Who’d have thought we had to worry about spices! However, if we’ve learned anything from this business, it’s that you have to worry about everything. Unfortunately. This is a great article explaining the pitfalls of spices. Since it’s hard to find spices at local farms, pick organic if you have to buy them from an unknown source.

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Buying from small farms that are doing it right benefits all of us, and our environment for the future. We really appreciate the effort that they put in to growing good, healthy food for us, naturally. Certified organic is simply not enough, support your local farmers!

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