LocalHarvest Newsletter, August 27, 2012

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

Twenty years ago, I packed up two suitcases and moved from Minnesota to Northern California to work as an intern with CAFF, a statewide sustainable farm organization. My first project was to squint my way through heavy books of data at the Department of Pesticide Regulation, cataloging how many tons of each of the most toxic pesticides were being sprayed on California's main crops. The numbers were staggering, and on the rise.

It didn't take long for me to see the value of eating organic food and adjust my food purchases accordingly. But that was 20 years ago. This month I got to wondering, have things changed? I called Jim Riddle, Organic Outreach Coordinator, University of MN - Southwest Research and Outreach Center, and asked him to give me an update.

Riddle's overview of the last two decades falls into three areas: a new hazard, greater structure, and more data. The new danger, of course, is being wrought by genetically modified organisms (GMOs), just under development in the 1990s, but now estimated to be found in 70% of food on grocery store shelves. (The rise of GMOs - and the fight against them - will be the topic of a future LH newsletter.) The increased structure Riddle mentions is provided by the National Organic Program, which in 2000 created a single, national definition of "organic." The organic standards have many fans, as well as quite a few opponents.

Many people turn to organic food out of concern for what pesticides do to our natural resources, and their impact on human health. Compared to 20 years ago, Riddle says, we have greater documentation of both the ways organic systems protect groundwater, and the increased nutritional value of organic foods. Recent studies have consistently shown that organic foods have higher vitamin, mineral, and anti-oxidant levels, and lower nitrate levels. Riddle concludes, "Choosing organic is an investment in our health."

The case for organic is strong, and with over 75% of Americans buying some organic products, it seems that most of us agree. Few of us buy organic food exclusively, though, so we have to make choices at the grocery store. Asked how he spends a limited budget for organic, Riddle said that he prioritizes organic dairy, which he calls a "gateway organic product." Dairy gets the top spot for a few reasons: cows on organic farms eat fresh grass, so their milk is higher in healthy amino acids. Eating organic milk and dairy products also allows us - and our children - to avoid pesticide residues which make their way from the cows' grain to the milk, and dodges the infamous rBGH (bovine growth hormone). If organic dairy is outside your budget, you would do well to look for products labeled "rBGH free."

After dairy, Riddle recommends making sure that fruits and vegetables that are consumed raw and not peeled are organic. Planting a garden, as many of us do, will make in-season, organic produce plentiful, stretch our food dollars, and teach the next generation a valuable skill. For those who don't have space for a garden, shopping for fresh, local foods at the farmers market is economical and delicious. Whatever you do, warns Riddle, "stay away from highly processed, highly packaged foods - you're wasting your food dollars, whether it’s organic or not." Amen! From his vantage point as an organic educator, Jim Riddle sees that consumers' beliefs are changing. "People in the U.S. are placing more value on the food they eat and how it's grown."

We want to hear about what organic foods you buy and how you budget for them. We'd also like to know what you think of the National Organic Program and whether its definition of organic goes far enough. Please take a couple of minutes to tell us!

Until next time, take good care and eat well.

Erin Barnett

CSAware: Meet Liz!

The CSAware staff is expanding! We recently hired another account manager, Liz Young, to help our clients get launched with CSAware, our CSA management software. Liz is the co-owner of a pecan farm in Texas, and previously worked as the CSA manager for the well-known Eatwell Farm in Dixon, CA. (happy users of CSAware) She is full of sunshine, and we are delighted to have her join us.

Been thinking that you have to get some technology to help you run your CSA? Drop us a line and Liz or one of the rest of us will give you a tour!

From the LocalHarvest Store:

CSAs - they aren't just for summers anymore! The LocalHarvest directory includes more than 1000 CSAs that offer winter shares, many of whom sell these shares through our store or through their own CSAware systems. To see if there's one near you, click here and then enter your zip code to narrow the search.

In many parts of the country, it's time to start planning the fall garden. Running low on seeds for some of your favorite cool season veggies? Seeds for fall garden can be found in plenty in our seed department.

The lavender harvest is in full swing, so now is the perfect time to order this year's crop. LocalHarvest farmers make everything from swags to salve with this marvelous herb. Get yours today.

Last Call! Organic Certification Cost Share 2012 Reimbursements

Nearly $7.5 million — as much as $750 per certified operation — is still available to certified organic farmers and businesses for reimbursements of the costs of certification. But time is running out… some States' deadlines are as early as September 30!

To apply:

  1. Contact your State's Department of Agriculture.
  2. Complete a one-page form, documenting certification expenses through September 30.
  3. Receive a check for as much as 75 percent — up to $750 — of your certification costs.

Food From the Farm: Teri's Miso Pesto

Earlier this month, my family and I had the great good fortune to visit a dear friend who lives in Orleans, CA. Her beautiful market garden fed us with its fruits and beauty, and we came home refreshed and inspired. One of the treats Teri made was this lovely cheese-free pesto, perfect for those who avoid dairy products, and a welcome change for those of us who eat pesto morning, noon and night this time of year. This recipe should be treated as a starting point - you may want to omit the lemon, or double it!, add more miso, reduce the salt, etc. Taste as you go, and you will end up with a vegan pesto you enjoy. You can also make half a recipe if you have less basil available.