Don’t Panic- its Organic!


Maybe.. the real Sh!z doesnt need labels

Second semester freshman year I fell in love with a challenging/interesting course; Fundamentals of Organic Agriculture(FAO for short- hey- Cheers to an environmental liberal arts education!) That was 5 years ago… and my oh my has the industry grown. With a boom in young farmers and a big jump in the general pop’s excitement toward healthy food, organic has become a household term thrown evvvvvverywhere. In that first 3 hour class my professor assigned us an impromptu- debate(classic liberal arts) on the varying sides of organic agriculture. Questions flew across the room accompanied by quick well prepared rebuttles. I kept quiet.

turns out i didn’t know jack about organic.

And in all honesty I don’t think most have a clue what organic really is, we name drop it left and right hoping someone doesn’t call our bluff asking us why we choose organic, how its important (including myself). So here’s some history, it may help a bit…

DONT PANIC …. ITS ORGANIC

1905-  Sir Abert Howard set off from England to Indore India to become an “agriculture advisor”. Instead of advising he became the student, and brought back his learnings of soil health, composting, regenerative practices etc. etc. to the US & UK through his book An Agricultural Testament– Classic organic farming text. No I have not read, yes I will soon.

1940-The Organic movement began in the US through JI Rodale’s publishing work. A playwright, editor, & author Rodale used his influence in print to familiarise our fav word organic with pesticide free (influenced by Sir Albert Howard). Keep in mind, these methods are nothing new, Sir Albert Howard is a messenger not the creator in this wild ride. Indian agriculture techniques found in Howard’s book were traditional ancient agriculture techniques.

1970(s) Organic industry grew, and so did environmental awareness. Growing too fast for its own good, there wasn’t enough of a structure developed to support its size. States were the ones regulating which meant the standards varied per region… giving the term organic no uniformity.

1990-Congress passes OFPA (Organic Foods Production Act) with the attempt to set up a national standard.

2002- Rules begin to be implemented (yay!) For the most part, this is what they consist of:

  • Land must be free of pesticides/ chemicals etc three years before you even think of being certified organic
  • No use of genetic engineering (GMO)
  • Crop rotation, cover crops, animal crop waste should be implemented, use of synthetic materials is allowed
  • preffered organic seeds
  • Pests (including weeds & diseases) will be initially controlled by management practices but basically if all else fails … use a substance that is approved by the national list..
  • animals must be fed 100% organic feed
  • no hormones or antibiotics for any reason (preventative measures can be used including vaccines- producer MUST give medical attention if required, however that animal will no longer be sold as “organic”)
  • All organic meat must have access to the outdoors, pasture for ruminants (info found at http://Www.sare.org )

Then…. Organic went mainstream

Although the original thought is exciting, massive growth in the organic movement moves it farther and farther away from it’s roots. Eco-friendly systems that focuses on connection between farmer & consumer kind of diminish. Prioritizing healthy soil loses focus as assembly lines grow.

Michael Pollan’s (author of Omnivores Dilemma-highly reccomendspoke to the topic of Big Ag in an article from Organic Consumer’s Assosciation “If organic agriculture means anything it should mean that the food has a lighter environmental footprint, its really the supermarket shopper that drives the industrialization” He urges environmentally conscious shoppers to shop their local markets instead of heading straight for the ORGANIC label.

Currently there are 8,760 year round farmers markets in the U.S. So lets get go! IF you live in the NYC area you sure are a lucky ducky, there are tons and tons of local options thanks to GROWNYC. If you aren’t in the area, no worries, you can find a farmers market near you at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets 

Share with me your seasonal finds!

Apple of my Ireland,

learning from the best.

50 hours in pure heaven. For the weekend I got the beautiful luxury of going to Brosna, humbly located in County Kerry, Ireland..  I’m sure you know the place… the place where that butter wrapped in a golden ticket comes from, YES its still allll from Ireland… that’s Kerrygold Over the spread of the trip my great friend introduced me to her clan of close-knit family & friends. The opening liner always began “this is Keeley, she’s got family in Mayo. Yes, Yes, she grew up on a farm too. She knows how to work”

At first, people didn’t pick up that I am indeed American (the fair skin which lends to be slightly red, blue eyes & a dark full head of hair gave it away, plus… Kerry felt exceptionally comfy) The people are incredible. Making me feel like kin that spent my young years bopping from bog to bog finding faeries. UGH take me back.

Enough with the romantic floral reflections! I said before that the people were fantastic, I’m sure you can infer that tons of drink had been consumed in the form of Guinness, cider, baileys, etc etc… Conversation got going and my curiosity in farming Ireland got the best of me. The last time I visited, in Mayo, all I remember was rolling field upon rolling field of sheep grazing. Due to the Kerrygold Co-op county Kerry traditionally is dairy cows. During the months of winter the cows stay in the barns munching on silage, fermented hay. Snow is common in Ireland however not in the same way we get it in the northeast. We are in the trenches of winter and yet there is green everywhere and vibrant green to boot. I asked a bounty of dairy farmers, why they don’t continue grazing their cows during winter, there seems to be plenty of grass to go around. The long blades look lush and full of nutrients. They all replied simply, the cows stay in the barns to preserve the grasses as well as their energy to stay warm & cozy. Farmers would rather have the longevity of the fields and keep building rich, healthy soil than put the cows on pasture 365.

How does this correlate to the US Dairy industry? Conventional ag keeps their bovines inside not to preserve the land, but to grow grains/ corn to fatten their masses, a presumably more cost effective way to make ends meet? But this harms the land and does not provide the correct sustenance for the animal. So what to do? It turns out that the dairy industry in the US isn’t as regulated as you thought, “Grassfed” can mean something wildly different. The Food and Drug Administration oversees the labeling of all things food, including dairy products. Surprise surprise, currently there is not much of a standard for labeling. A “Grassfed” animal can actually be fed grain and supplemented with some grass/ hay.

Back to.. what to do? buying Kerrygold is an answer, but what about local. Obviously supporting your local farmers & hitting up the farmers market is my #1 answer, but here are a few things to look for to ensure you are getting the best of the best dairy products when strollin down the isles at your local grocery store!

these are those labels & these are their stories:

American Grass-fed

Diet — Animals are fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest.
Confinement — Animals are raised on pasture without confinement to feedlots.
Antibiotics and hormones — Animals are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.
Origin — All animals are born and raised on American family farms.

PCO Certified 100% Grassfed –

This certification is in addition to USDA certified organic standards. An extra special standards that pertain to ruminants, giving them the space they need to roam, ensuring that they are grass-fed and have space to root and roam as they please. Read more here:https://www.paorganic.org/grassfed

Certified Grassfed by AGW

AGW is in an additional certification to the Animal Welfare Approved cert. This one is super special because it safely ensures 100% that the animals were fed nothing other than Grassfed, raised on PASTURE, nottt a feedlot! Read more here:https://agreenerworld.org/certifications/certified-grass-fed/