Thursday, January 5, 2012

Organic vs. Sustainable Farming

First of all, if you are lucky enough to live in an area that has a Costco, go get a membership.  Costco really listens to its members and is continually adding more whole and organic foods.

With that said, last week we were in Costco and on my list was frozen corn and peas.  As I was just about to pull a bag out of the freezer, I noticed that no longer was the word "ORGANIC" on the front.  Instead where these words:  Sustainably FarmedWell, what in the world does that mean?  And why did they take away my organic veggies???

So, before purchasing these new vegetables I decided to do some homework and find out the scoop.  And just in case you, too, are interested here's the deal:

The Difference between Organic and Sustainable
Organic farming generally falls within the accepted definition of sustainable agriculture. However, it is important to distinguish between the two, since organic products can be (unsustainably) produced on large industrial farms, and farms that are not certified organic can produce food using methods that will sustain the farm's productivity for generations. Some organic dairy farms, for example, raise cows in large confinement facilities but are able to meet the bare minimum requirements for organic certification, while a non-organic certified small farm could use organic guidelines and be self-sufficient by recycling all the farm's waste to meet its fertility needs.
Agricultural Marketing Service

Organic vs. Sustainable Farming
Organic is an annual USDA certification.  Cost of that certification may be prohibitive for some.  (That wording on cost is actually found on the USDA's website.) Sustainable farming is a philosophy, a way of life.  The best way to know what you are getting is if you are able to buy directly from the farmer and ask him/her yourself about their practices. 
Organic farmers need to give animals "access" to outdoors, but they can actually confine animals and gain organic certification with as little as an open door leading to a cement patio.  As a matter of fact, animals can spend their entire lives never being allowed to go outside. In a more sustainable system, animals must be permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, like rooting, pecking or grazing.
Organic-fed animals may not have antibiotics. Many farmers using sustainable practices do not administer any antibiotics at all, but some may do so when their animals are sick and need to be treated. The milk and meat of animals given antibiotics on these farms are not used for human consumption until the antibiotics have fully passed out of the animals' systems.
Organic food can be produced by large corporations Sustainable food production is carried out by small farmers and families who live on the land where they farm.
For organic farming, there is no limitation on how many acres can be used to grow crops. Sustainable farmers plant crops in relatively small, mixed plots as a form of pest control and to build soil fertility.
Organic food can travel thousands of miles before reaching your dinner plate, and certification does not take into consideration the use of fossil fuels used to truck food. Sustainable food, however, is distributed and sold as close to the farm as possible.

I realize that the best place to get fresh fruits and vegetables is directly from the farmer.  But I'm going to feel much more confident purchasing items that have been grown in this manner.  And I'll feel good about supporting the small(er) farmers, too.

Live in Victory!

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