Saturday, September 28, 2013

Promoting Organic Food and Locally Grown Foods

Whether Eating Out or Eating at Home

Restaurants, local organizations, and farmers in scattered parts of the U.S. realize the importance of organic and locally grown foods for the health and economic sustainability of their communities.

The Locavore Challenge

Especially noteworthy is the Locavore Challenge of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY).  The goal of the association is to promote local, organic food and farming.
The Locavore Challenge, promoted in conjunction with National Organic Harvest Month, aims to raise awareness not only among consumers purchasing for their consumption at home, but also among retailers, schools, hospitals, retirement homes, and restaurants with large purchasing power, that local sources are available, and can be far healthier than foodstuffs transported from far off and that, moreover, these locally delivered foods add considerably less amounts of harmful carbon to the atmosphere.

A Restaurant Owner Describes His Goal

Lou Lego, of The Restaurant at Elderberry Pond, Auburn, New York, says
We have sort of a mission of the farm to get the country back to local agriculture, that we think the quality of the produce that's in grocery stores, and the quality of the meats, and the way meats are raised and everything has really deteriorated.
Each day, staff pick fresh produce for all the restaurant's dishes.  The menu also changes with the seasons
Our planning starts in the spring, with when we're going to need potatoes, what kind of potatoes we're going to need, and herbs and spices we're going to need, . . . different meats and fruits, so the restaurant really kind of drives the farm.
The restaurant is just one of 14 in the state taking part in the Locavore Challenge.  Each restaurant donates part of their proceeds to NOFA-NY to help fund year round efforts to promote agriculture in the state.

Restaurants Elsewhere in New York State

Among other restaurants in the state participating are;
  • Fifty South, Ballston Spa
  • One Caroline Street Bistro, Saratoga Spring
Kate Mendenhall, NOFA-NY Executive Director, says "The Locavore Challenge is an opportunity to celebrate the bounty of New York's organic and sustainable farmers as well as grow the movement of consumers seeking local organic food."

"Nature's Plate Award" by The Nature Conservancy 

A national award is now presented by The Nature Conservancy ( In its Nature's Plate Award, diners nominate online their favorite "green" restaurants.  Restaurants must be "full service" offering any or all of the following:
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Free-range and grass-fed meat
  • Organic produce or other organic food
  • Local and seasonal
  • Water (tap water rather than bottled
Winners will be announced October 17, 2013.


The Value of Organic Food,

Its Place in Community Life

Is Growing,




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Friday, September 27, 2013

Weed Killer Devastates Soil

Though Some Doubt This

A New York Times article (September 20, 2013) raises widespread doubts about the overall value of glyphosate, used in the pesticides Roundup and Buccaneer, to kill weeds.

Debate Affects Biotech Crops



Some 90% of corn, soybeans, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are biotech crops.
Above and beyond the controversies involving the health and environmental consequences of biotech foods and the fight to force labeling, some farmers are having second thoughts, because of what biotech crops and the extensive use of glyphosate do to the soil.

A Farmer Who Tried Biotech and Why He Gave Up

Mike Verhoef, farming in Sanborn, Iowa, switched several years ago to biotech corn and soybeans on his 350 acres, regularly rotating his two crops with oats--oats not genetically engineered!--in order to replenish soil nutrients.

Soil Quality Noticeably Affected

Verhoef quickly noticed his soil becoming hard and compacted.  To work it, he had to use a bigger tractor and consequently use more gas.

Crop Yield Dropped Drastically

Moreover, the yield on his oats overtime dropped by about half!  He finally realized that "What I was using to treat the . . . corn and soy was doing something to my soil that was killing off my oats."

Back to the Old Ways



Two years ago, Verhoef gave up on biotech corn, soy, and glyphosate.  He returned to growing conventional crops again, using products from Verity, a small company that works to persuade farmers to switch back to conventional crops (see http://www.verityfarms.com

Fully Convinced!

Verhoef says not only has his soil improved, but his yield of conventional corn and soy are "average to above average" compared with neighboring farmers growing biotech crops.  Despite what his neighbors do or think, he states emphatically:

I'm not turning back, because I haven't seen anything


that is going to change my mind


about glyphosate!

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Saturday, September 21, 2013


Why Organic Farms Opt Out of  Government Certification

Only 1% (13,000) of the 2.2 million farms in the U.S. are certified as "organic" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A Multitude of Reasons

Small farms that have long been farming organically and newer farms attempting to farm organically, opt out of the USDA's certification process for a number of reasons:
  • Extensive record-keeping requirements
  • Fees that can amount to 6% of a small farm's gross sales
  • Philosophical objections to joining a monolithic government-run program that also certifies huge operations that ship produce across the country and may export as well.

Other Options  

Other non-government certifying organizations that some organic or would-be organic farmers join:
  • Certified Naturally Grown (, tailored for direct-market farmers producing food for their local communities, without synthetic chemicals (now includes 700 farms in 47 states).

  • Farmers Pledge, especially for farmers selling directly to consumers and/or retailers.  Some 130 farmers in New York and Connecticut sign the pledge committing them to a broad set of farming principles addressing labor issues, organic production practices, community values, and marketing (See and

Demeter, the certification for farmers abiding by the strict rules for those who farm according to the biodynamic method.  Demeter is an international standard.  Demeter food tests superior to food certified by the USDA. (See http://www.demeter-usa.org and http://www.demeter.net
See also the San Diego daily newspaper, U-T, September 18, 2013, "Naturally Grown, But Shh!  Don't Call It 'Organic.'  Farmers dodge certification hurdles, adopt their own term."


 Just as there is more than one way to "skin a cat," as the saying goes,

Farmers find ways to claim they are "organic"

without Government "blessing" them!

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New, Death-dealing Rules for U.S. Organic Farms

May Force Many Organic Farms Out of Business!

Despite the intent of the U.S. Congress, factory farms and monoculture farming--with the help of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)--are triumphing. 

Good Intentions Gone Awry!

Massive outbreaks of food poisoning prompted Congress in 2010 to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  However, the problems needing solution stemmed largely--not from small, family organic farms--from gigantic, factory farms in the U.S. or from food imported from comparable agribusinesses abroad. 

The Clout of Lobbyists

Guess who has more influence in Washington, at the FDA?  The big agribusinesses or small organic farmers?  The result:

Big Agribusiness Wins.  Small, Organic Farmers Lose!

The reason agribusiness wins, even though it must submit to new regulation, is that its increasingly powerful competition--organic farms--loses! With loving attention, ostensibly to the wishes of Congress, and with enormous attention to details needed to regulate only some of the weaknesses of factory farms, the FDA--with no due process--now also forces family farms to comply with onerous, expensive, testing and record-keeping requirements that only huge farms have the wherewithal to cope with!
  1. The FDA has wildly inflated the number of food borne illnesses that originate from farm production (seed to harvest), rather than contamination that takes place later, in processing/distribution--in justifying supposed economic benefits from the new rules.
  2. The FDA fails to recognize that some processed crops, grown in certain regions, are the genesis of 90% of dangerous outbreaks!   Thousands of individual illnesses come from food processing practices--not farming practices--for fresh-cut/bagged salads, greens, and sprouts.  And there are no outbreaks linked to many kinds of U.S.-grown fruits and vegetables.  Yet these very onerous rules will apply to all farmers.
  3. Almost all pathogenic pollution that contaminates ground water and surface water, fertilizers and even air comes from giant Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs (factory farms), not from fruit and vegetable growers.  In fact, the riskiest pathogens are found on CAFOs.  But the FDA proposes nothing to address sick livestock in animal factories and their pathogen-filled manure that's contaminating surrounding rural communities, farms, and our food supply


Please, FDA

Look More Closely

Reconsider Who Needs Regulating


And How!

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Organic Food in Canada

Canadian Food Inspection Agency


The Canada Organic Regime is the Government of Canada's response to requests by the organic sector and consumers to develop a regulated system for agricultural products.

The Organic Products Regulations (the Regulations) define specific requirements for organic products to be labeled organic or to bear the agricultural legend (logo).  The regulations became effective on June 30, 2009. 

Why Regulate Organic Products?

To clarify its purpose, the Agency explains itself:
The Canadian Organic Regime has been developed to:
  • Protect consumers against misleading or deceptive labeling practices
  • Reduce consumer confusion about the definition of organic
  • Facilitate the access of Canadian organic products to foreign markets that require regulatory oversight
  • Support further development of the domestic market

How do I recognize an organic product?

The answer to Canadians is:
  • Only products with organic content that is greater than or equal to 95% may be labeled "Organic" or bear the organic logo.
  • Multi-ingredient products with 70-95% organic content may have the declaration "Contains x% organic ingredients."  These products may not use the organic logo and/or claim "Organic"
  • Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may only contain organic claims in the product's ingredient list.  These products may not use the organic logo.
  • Certified organic products must also bear the name of the certification body that has certified them as organic

Who certifies?


Organic products sold within the province of origin are subject to provincial organic regulations, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations and the Food and Drug Regulations.  The provinces of Quebec and British Columbia have organic certification systems in place, while other provinces are considering the development of their own systems.  The website provides a list of accredited certification bodies.



As in all countries, the adage applies:


Buyer Beware!

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