Why Should You Join a CSA? Week 5: Chemical-free produce

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Some CSAs offer organic produce, while others may offer chemical-free produce.  While neither a tenant of CSA (meaning not all CSAs provide this type of produce), most will provide one or both of these.  So what’s the difference?  In short, organic produce is certified by an entity that has reviewed the practices of that farmer and determined the produce to meet the organic certification requirements. Chemical-free produce is not certified, so no organization is behind it asserting what it stands for, though typically this produce meets most (but not all) of the criteria for organic produce.

Kellner Back Acre Gardens is certified by Nature’s International Certification Services (NICS) for our chickens, eggs, raspberries and asparagus.  Our other produce is treated the same as our organic produce and is created from organic seed, but is not certified.  Certification is a lengthy process and requires extensive documentation, as well as additional costs, so we currently lack the capacity to certify all of our produce.  However, for health purposes, you’ll find the produce very comparable between the organic and chemical-free produce at our farm.

So why is organic or chemical-free produce such a benefit to you?  Some sources contend organic produce is nutritionally superior than non-organic, but the verdict is out on the reality of this contention.  But there are several verifiable differences and benefits.

First, organic produce does not use pesticides.  Produce that is sprayed with pesticides often has residual chemicals on it when the consumer eats it.  Since organic produce doesn’t use pesticides, you can avoid that residue when eating organic.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit that focuses on health and the environment, stated nearly 2/3rds of produce by the USDA in 2013 contained pesticide residue.  The organization created the Dirty Dozen list (the list of produce with the highest pesticide amount), which includes celery, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and apples in 2015.  To avoid pesticides in these produce, you can purchase them from Kellner Back Acre Garden!

Second, organic produce is GMO-free.  GMO (genetically modified organisms) has been genetically altered to resist to pesticides or to produce an insecticide.  Many people believe consuming GMO products may have long-term implications, but given it is a relatively new technology, long-term studies have not been conducted.  But given GMO products resistance to pesticide, higher quantities of pesticides can be used, resulting in more consumed by individuals than before.  In addition, organic farming uses organic farming practices, which is more sustainable and better for the environment.  (See our blog post on week 3).

Finally, organic produce (such as our eggs and chickens) are not given antibiotics, growth hormones or fed animal byproducts.  Our chickens are pastured as well, which leads to healthier birds and better quality meat for our consumers.

Image credit: Freeimages.com/ Beverly Lloyd-Roberts

 

Why should you join a CSA? Week 4: Local produce means more benefits for you

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A recent food trend for restaurants is sourcing local ingredients.  Joining a CSA produces similar results for the average consumer – that is, local, fresh ingredients.  So why is this so popular?  And what are the benefits?

First, as we noted last week, local produce means the produce hasn’t traveled 1500 miles to your plate, which in turn means less fossil fuels used and carbon dioxide released into the environment since mass transportation is not needed for local produce.

But did you know that large scale commercial farming often harvests produce before it is completely ripe?  This needs to happen so when you receive several days (or weeks!) later the produce isn’t overripe.  In order to ripen some produce, like tomatoes and pears, and get it ready for the market, ethylene gas is used.  While this gas is the same created by bananas naturally and is not known to cause any harm, it creates that mealy texture in tomatoes you sometimes get from the grocery store.

Produce allowed to ripen on the vine has been shown to be more nutritionally dense than produce that is ripened in transport.  While there have been substantial advances in refrigerated trucks allowing us to enjoy produce from all over the world, the longer produce is in transport, the more nutrients it loses.

Produce created for commercial purposes is grown because of its high-yield or ability to withstand long transport.  But local farmers typically pick varieties that have better nutritional value and better taste, since they have direct access to their consumers and are concerned about the quality of the end product, as opposed to the quantity.

Besides better nutrition, local produce means more money back into the local community.  Based on a 2004 study by a Civic Economics and a Chamber of Commerce, it was found that for every $100 spent at locally-owned stores, $68 is recycled into the local economy, as compared to $48 when spent at a big box store.

Finally, buying local means building sense of community when you know your farmer and the source of your food.  For example, this is what one of our members said about our CSA:

Seven years ago, after having several health concerns despite eating “healthy” foods, our family realized that we didn’t really know how our food was sourced and we started CSA life.  It was a change but worth it!!!  Today, we eat our whole food meals, year round, having seen it grow on Nancy’s farm.  The kids love little visits and helping on the farm, side by side with Nancy.  I love teaching them about safe nutrition and a childhood that teaches the circle of life, hands on.  Nancy’s care is friendly and her CSA allows us to eat a whole food organic diet that is within our financial reach.  We are grateful! – Lorelei, member

Photo credit: American Independent Business Alliance

 

Why should you join a CSA? Week 3: Environmental Impact

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farmland scene NZ

Our customers are conscious shoppers and know that buying local can reduce their environmental impact.  Sounds great, but how is that really happening?

Commercial farming operations are in the business of providing large quantities of food as efficiently and cheaply as possible.

Today only 2 percent of U.S. farms produce 70 percent of the vegetables, 50 percent of the fruit and nuts, and 35 percent of the poultry products grown in this country. Cornell, Modern Agriculture: Its Effect on the Environment

Unfortunately, this increased intensity of production has caused ill-fated environmental impact, such as soil erosion and groundwater contamination.  Erosion to the soil means less topsoil, which is necessary to support good growth of plants.  As a result of this erosion, more fertilizer and irrigation is needed to support plants in the short term.  In the long term, it could result in such poor soil quality that it wouldn’t support certain plants.

This eroded soil then makes it way to the streams and other waterways, disrupting water flow and habitats.  In addition, groundwater and waterways become contaminated from runoff from fields, which carries pesticides and fertilizers.  And use of these pesticides leads to pests that become immune to the pesticides, requiring greater strength application or type of pesticide.

Our CSA engages in responsible farming practices, such as crop rotation and conservation tillage, in an effort to save as much of the topsoil as possible and reduce erosion.  We do not use commercial pesticides or fertilizers.  Instead, we pasture our animals, resulting in natural fertilization of the land.

Did you know food and food packaging accounts for 45% of the waste in landfills according to the EPA?  Our members can feel good about using less packaging, since we don’t have to worry about transportation or long-term storage.

Its often been cited that food routinely travels 1500 miles from farm to plate.  This means mass transportation consuming fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide emissions as it goes.  But purchasing from our local CSA means our members are causing less  less consumption of gas and less release of harmful emissions, since our food travels much shorter distances (tens of miles instead of hundreds).  We’ll talk more about the benefits of local produce next week.

Photo credit: Freeimages.com/ Melodi2