Certified Naturally Grown vs. Organic
Another topic I think lots of us would be interested in is the significant difference between “Certified Naturally Grown” and “Organic”. Organic certification is really a barrier to entry for most small farmers. From the Wikipedia article, “To be Certified Organic (as opposed to Certified Naturally Grown) in the US, a grower must keep detailed records of planting, cultivation, fertilization, harvest, and storage, and must pay for both organization membership and periodic inspection. This process works well for large-scale commercial growers, but becomes onerous for small mixed-agriculture farms. Since only certified seeds may be used, the varieties available to be grown are limited, and sustainable practices such as seed-saving is not permitted, unless the farmer also applies to be certified as a seed supplier.
Certified Naturally Grown farmers follow the USDA standards of the National Organic Program, but the record keeping and inspection process is tailored to accommodate the needs of small-scale mixed-agriculture farmers, and are not normally permitted to use the word “organic”. Farmers commit to act as inspectors. Farmer-Inspectors are uniquely qualified to observe and note whether their neighbors are sticking to the standards, and are encouraged to provide helpful feedback, which helps foster a sense of community and sharing. Inspection forms are posted on the Internet for anytime public access, and all farms are subject to random pesticide residue testing. All in all, the CNG procedure requires significantly less paperwork, yet arguably results in more transparency and fostering of better farming practices, than the Certified Organic process, which primarily depends on farmer declarations backed by copious paperwork, and which inspects the paperwork rather than the farm.”
Support biodiversity, encourage the use of open pollinated seeds for seed saving and sharing. Remember nothing tastes better or is better for you than an heirloom fruit or vegetable!
On CSA’s – Community Supported Agriculture
Regarding getting ultra-fresh food, there is one thing that I haven’t seen you mention and that is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It alleviates much of the very valid concerns that Kelcy brought up. For instance, when you go to the local farmer’s market, you have no idea how their produce is grown. Do they use herbicides and pesticides and tons of water soluble fertilizers? Did they raise their livestock on free range grasses chock full of Omega-3’s or was it just a small-scale version of the high production farms? Were those animals slaughtered in a humane manner? CSA’s give the consumer an opportunity to truly develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown; annual or even more frequent farm visits are encouraged. Check out this link, plug in your zip and find a CSA near you:
Another great read is the late John Seymour’s book, A Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It.
It doesn’t get any fresher than if you grow it yourself. Doesn’t even require much space and you can put that compost to great use even if it is just a container garden on a city balcony.
Also there was a question above of what to eat in the winter when local farms are not producing. Community farmers throughout the US even in northernmost states are noticing a great return on minimum investment by using High Tunnels (cheap plastic cold frames that greatly extend the growing season).
keep up the good work