Saturday mornings start early.
A quick homemade breakfast smoothie and a fresh egg from our backyard hens fill my belly. Then, off to a local farmer’s market to shop. I’ll admit, it’s not always easy to wake early on Saturday, knowing my neighbors are still enjoying their beds and comfy pillows, but it’s a choice I make.
Every Saturday morning, about twenty minutes from our home, local farmers set up tents early in the morning to sell their fresh veggies, local honey, pastured meats, and fresh eggs. The promise of the very best organic food always draws huge crowds of people looking to avoid the harmful pesticides found on (and in) conventional food.
I love those early mornings, browsing the brightly colored produce, anticipating the meals I’ll make in the days ahead. It’s invigorating and refreshing. There are also many conversations to overhear (I promise, I’m not eavesdropping, people just talk loudly). The group of ladies in the corner with the fresh collards, discussing ways to prepare the flat green leaves. The man holding the basket for his loving wife, busy picking out broccoli, asking if she needs lettuce as well.
Even with my love for the market and the organic farmers, I’ve questioned many times, “Is organic really worth it?” The time I spend seeking organic food and the extra dollars I spend… are they truly going toward a better choice or am I just throwing away valuable time and money?
With questions nagging my mind, I decided it was time to get some answers. I emailed one of my favorite certified organic farmers, Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida, and asked if I could visit. They happily said, “Yes”.
On a sunny March day, without any kids, I took a quiet drive to Punta Gorda, and visited the farm during a CSA day (Community Supported Agriculture). Chris and Eva, the owners of Worden, both actively work the farm and were on site to give me a tour and answer all my questions about organic.
The 85-acre farm was beautiful. I was immediately greeted by a covered gathering area with baskets of glorious veggies, a table featuring samplings of roasted farm beets (mixed with this salad), and local vendors selling fresh fish and cheese. Directly behind the shelter, rows of orange and yellow edible flowers danced in the wind. Trees stood between the flowers and the next lot of planted rows. Chris happily walked me down each row, describing the farm’s practices and the impact and reality of organic farming.
I left the farm that day with a head of fresh kale destined for our favorite Kale Pizza, and a new respect for organic food and the farmers using organic practices. Today, I’m sharing five reasons I’ve decided to make the organic switch.
Five Reasons to Make the Organic Switch:
1. Certified organic farmers are held to a higher standard: Before a farm is eligible to receive the certified organic seal, a farm must document and practice organic farming practices for at least three years. Once certified, organic farmers must reapply every year and undergo a strict annual inspection. The inspection is performed by a third party inspector. The farmers must be able to answer for their farming practices and provide documentation from seed to harvest. The inspector also conducts a plant and soil test on the farm. The requirements for organic farmers are consistent across the board, so all organic farmers must meet the same requirements and undergo the same annual inspection.
2. Certified organic produce is worth the price: Certified organic farmers pay big dollars to the government for their certification. Yes, it’s sad that farmers growing the natural way must pay for a stamp of approval, but it’s the current state of our nation and the food system. Not only do farmers pay for certification (which means lots of extra work through organic farming techniques and documentation), they also use natural, sometimes more costly, practices.
Organic farmers may produce less strawberries and cucumbers (for example), due to exposure to natural conditions which synthetic pesticides and herbicides fight against. Sometimes this means losing 20% of a crop, a cost the farmer must “eat.”
Next time you see the package of $5 organic strawberries next to the $3 conventional berries, know the difference from seed to harvest is remarkably different; as well as the extra cost the farmer paid to guarantee the berries were grown as nature intended–unpolluted soil, using untreated seeds, utilizing natural pest control and fertilizers.
3. Buying certified organic allows you to vote with your dollar: It’s easy to complain about toxic fertilizers and pesticides being used on our food supply, but complaining is not going to create much change. Companies understand one important currency: money. By purchasing organic you’re casting a vote. A vote for sustainable and natural practices that don’t deplete the soil or leave synthetic toxins in our food.
By supporting local organic farms, you’re putting money back into local people and your community, instead of big profit-driven companies. It’s as easy as waking early on a Saturday morning and visiting a local farmer’s market or finding the organic produce section in your local store. Companies will never hear the complaints if we don’t start putting our money and talk together.
4. Certified organic is better for the body and environment: Certified organic farmers have a list (the Omri List) which details the pesticides they may use on their organic farms. The pesticides must come from natural sources and include: soaps, fish emulsion, diatomaceous earth, neem, and more.
Conventional farming practices regularly include spraying synthetic (opposite of natural) pesticides and herbicides which pollute the water, air, and food. Studies have shown an increase risk of cancer when rats are exposed to many of the toxins used on conventional farms. Around half of the synthetic chemicals used today are known to be carcinogenic.
According to Unraveling GMOs: What They Are, How to Avoid Them, and How to Make a Difference, “By USDA requirements under the USDA Certified Organic Seal, farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Umm… yuck! Why would anyone want to use those methods any way!?!” Buying organic means saying “yes” to a cleaner environment and healthier bodies.
5. Certified organic means saying “NO” to GMOs. Today, consumers must worry about both carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides, and GMOs. GMOs are organisms whose genes have been altered in a lab. So, while that papaya may look like a papaya, its genes are anything but a good ol’ papaya. Scary, right? Fortunately, certified organic farmers must prove from seed to harvest that they don’t use GMO seeds or plants. Unfortunately, when buying conventional produce there really isn’t any sign, label, or disclaimer of an impostor.
After visiting Worden Farm and learning about organic farming, I’ve decided organic is worth it. I realize it may cost more at times and require an extra early morning on Saturdays, but I believe the money and time are wisely spent, or rather wisely invested. Invested in the health of my family, and the farmers seeking to provide my family with the very best food possible.
Have you made the organic switch? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts.