Posts Tagged ‘Local Food’


Posted on June 18, 2013 - by

In Organic We Trust…But Should We?

When savvy shoppers like us buy food, we often look for the “organic” label, since these products are the ones that are the most sustainable, ecofriendly and nutritious for us. Or are they? What does “organic” really mean, and does it deserve the trust that we place in it? Recently, the FRESH team was inspired by a new documentary from director Kip Pastor called In Organic We Trust to think about these questions and more. Below, we’re sharing some tips on how to understand the organic label. In addition, we’re excited to offer the In Organic We Trust DVD at a specially discounted rate of $18.99 for a limited time. Read on to find out more!

What Organic Means:

  • USDA Certification: The organic label means that the ingredients came from producers who were certified by the USDA as upholding organic standards.
  • Limited Pesticides: Organic produce is grown without synthetic and persistent pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Eating organic produce is a good way to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
  • GMO Free: Organic foods do not include genetically-modified ingredients.
  • No Irradiation: Organic produce has not been exposed to irradiation, an ionizing radiation treatment used to kill foodborne pathogens and reduce spoilage.

What Organic Doesn’t Mean:

  • Small Scale Producer: Unfortunately, food conglomerates have realized that premium prices equals larger profits, and they have bought many formerly independent organic operations. Many organic brands are in fact subsidiaries of larger mainstream companies, such as Kashi and Kellogg’s, or Muir Glen and General Mills.
  • Locally Sourced: Much of the organic produce at your supermarket probably comes from CA, while the small scale farms in your community may be local, but not certified organic.
  • Fair Labor Practices: An organic farm can be staffed by exploited workers who suffer poor pay and lack benefits. The Fair Trade label certifies that the food was produced by workers who were fairly compensated, but these requirements are not part of the organic standards.
  • No Additives: If the product is not labeled “100% organic,” up to 5% can be composed of the 100+ non-organic additives allowed by the National List. Many of the additives are included because no organic substitute is available or for economic reasons, and while not all of them are harmful, the list does include items like cellulose (indigestible wood pulp) and carrageenan (linked to intestinal inflammation and colon cancer).

The Bottom Line:

  • Know Your Farmer: Just because your local farmer hasn’t had the time or funding to get organic certification doesn’t mean they aren’t running a sustainable operation. It may be better to buy from someone you know and trust over an unknown, large scale organic farm elsewhere.
  • Organic Still Means Something: While the label may not encompass all that we would hope, the organic standards are still a good start to differentiating the types of farms and producers we want to support. Remember that the label “natural” is unregulated and doesn’t mean anything, while “organic” does require adherence to regulations.
  • Dirty Dozen: Maybe you don’t have the budget or the availability to buy only organic products. In that case, carry the Dirty Dozen card in your wallet or store it on your phone. This lists the top fruits and vegetables that carry the highest levels of pesticide residues. Strive to purchase organic versions of these foods where possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the facts behind the organic label, we highly recommend the film In Organic We Trust, which explores these issues.

Check out the trailer and purchase the film here: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5958/p/d/freshthemovie/shop/itemDetail.sjs?store_item_KEY=2426

Ideas? Suggestions? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts on organic labeling and organic certification!


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Posted on February 15, 2011 - by

From Farm to Your Table: CSA Sign-Up Season

Sure, much of the U.S. is covered with dismal, soot-sprayed snow, and it may feel like we’ve entered Narnia (always winter, never Christmas), but guess what, a new growing season is about to begin!

If you haven’t already done so, this is peak season to sign-up for a community-supported agriculture program, or CSA. What’s a CSA, you ask? It’s a subscription program to a farm. For a set fee that is paid at the beginning of the growing season, you will receive a share of the farm’s harvest for the rest of the year. Usually, this includes a basket of vegetables and fruits, but can also include eggs, meats, dairy products and honey. Your food will be fresh, seasonal, and local, and you’ll have the opportunity to get to know the farmer who produced your food.

Sure, you could buy local and seasonal produce from the grocery store, but CSAs are unique in a few other ways. Since shareholders pay upfront at the beginning of the year, you help the farmer with his cash flow and act as an investor in this year’s harvest. This shared risk means that if the growing season is good, you reap the benefits with more abundant produce, and if the Northeast is hit by tomato blight, well, you will not receive any tomatoes in your CSA basket. In addition, because you have little control over what is in your share, you will have to be flexible with what you cook. This can might fill you with dread or excitement. Personally, I am always thrilled to find an unrecognizable vegetable in my basket, and find that CSAs force you to broaden your horizons.

To give you an idea of what you might get, one week last fall, I received an acorn squash, a bunch of beets, three heads of red leaf lettuce, half a dozen jalapeno peppers, green peppers, rainbow swiss chard, red potatoes, a sack of green and yellow beans, onions, parsley, and broccoli crowns. The next week, I received red onions, apples, oranges, pears, bananas, a bunch of swiss chard, jalapenos, potatoes, a butternut squash, and a nice stalk of brussels sprouts.

The only downside is you will spend a lot more time washing dirt off your produce compared to store-bought goods. And in the interest of using up your groceries before they spoil, you may also find yourself considering such avant-garde flavor combinations as brussels sprouts with orange-jalapeno chutney. But that is a small price to pay.

To find a CSA program near you, check out Local Harvest.

Drop a line at crystal@freshthemovie.com.

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Posted on February 4, 2011 - by

What’s in a Food Mile?

The milk that you poured into your cereal this morning, do you know where it came from? Was it delivered to your doorstep by hand? Trucked from a large dairy farm in a neighboring city? Packaged and flown across the country? Which of these results in the least amount of carbon emissions?

When it comes to sourcing our food, we are often told that it is best to eat locally to minimize the environmental impacts of food production. To illustrate this, food miles are one metric used to quantify how local your food is. Simply put, food miles measure the distance a food travels from its origin to your plate. So, an apple from a local orchard may have only 10 food miles behind it, but a frozen pizza could have been shipped 3,000 miles from a distant manufacturing plant. Moreover, the average distance that your meal travels before arriving to you has been rising. American consumers are buying processed foods more frequently, and demand seasonal produce all year long.

Intuitively, it seems like a food with lower food miles should be more environmentally friendly than a food from a more distant location. But is this really the best way to assess the environmental impact of a food?

A Red Herring

For all the attention that has been paid to carbon emissions from transportation, the truth is that they make up only a small portion (11%) of greenhouse gases generated over the lifetime of a food product. In reality, the bulk of greenhouse gases stem from production, with 83% of emissions occurring before the food even leaves the farm (World Watch). Hence, focusing solely on food miles is like mending the fence while the rest of the house is on fire.

For instance, it takes more energy to produce vegetables off-season in greenhouses than in warmer climates. Researchers in Sweden concluded that it was better for Swedes to buy Spanish tomatoes instead of locally-grown Swedish tomatoes, since the local tomatoes were grown in greenhouses warmed by fossil fuels, as opposed to the Spanish crops grown in open fields (Carlsson-Kanyama, 1997). Another example of energy-intensive processing is local produce that is kept frozen throughout winter versus a product that is shipped fresh from another place.

Not All Miles Are Equal

Meanwhile, the nuances of transportation methods throw additional kinks into the story. Trains are 10 times more efficient than trucks at transporting freight, which means you could truck a product 100 miles or move it by train 1,000 miles with the same carbon emissions impact (World Watch). In general, air transport produces the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by small road vehicles, large road vehicles, rail and sea freight (Pirog et al, 2009).

Let’s not forget the miles we add by traveling to and from the point of purchase. Local transportation by car and small trucks is highly inefficient compared to mass transport, and food systems that integrate bulk deliveries can be more environmentally friendly than farmers markets. One study found that driving more than 7.4 km (4.6 miles) to the farmers market to buy locally-grown food would produce more carbon emissions than purchasing from a large-scale box supplier that uses cold storage, packaging and transportation (Blouin et al, 2009).

Taking all these factors into account, you get some eyebrow-raising results when tabulating the true environmental impact of foods. Researchers found that one ton of lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-filled pastures and transported to the U.K. by boat produced only 1,520 pounds of carbon emissions, versus 6,280 pounds for lamb raised in Britain on feed (NYT).

Blast, it appears that serious investigation of the food mile reveals that it cannot be used to make a cut-and-dried case for greener consumption. So what should the time-strapped, socially-conscious consumer do? Stay tuned next week for part two of “What’s in a Food Mile?”.

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Posted on November 16, 2009 - by

12 Things Kids Should Learn on their Own about Food

By: Orren Fox
OrrenFox
Guest Blogger: Orren Fox is 12 years old and lives in NoBo (North of Boston). He goes to school where there is a greenhouse and a bee hive! Orren has 24 chickens and four ducks (three Call Ducks and one beautiful Mandarin). He is really interested in farming and the ethical treatment of animals. Orren would love to change the way egg layers and meat birds are raised. He says he has a lot to learn. He blogs and tweets about these issues.

There are all sorts of really interesting things to learn about food, actually I imagine you might not have really THOUGHT about food. Maybe someone hasn’t taught you about food. Most kids would rather think about other stuff.

But just for a minute, right now, stop and ask yourself – What did I have for breakfast? Ok now, think – Where did all those ingredients come from? Who made that bagel? What time did they have to get up? Where did that egg come from? Where did the chicken live and how did it live? If you knew the animal was poorly treated would that make a difference? Or not? Where did the orange juice travel from? Florida? California? Have you ever traveled to those states? Is it a long way from California or Florida to your house? How much gas did it use to ship the OJ that far?

All really interesting questions I think.
1. Vegetables taste great with butter and cheese

Honestly, what doesn’t. Even asparagus, really even asparagus. I know there are some people who will say butter and cheese aren’t healthy, but hey I’m a kid and actually I think these are true foods or “real foods.” They aren’t chemically made in a laboratory. They come from recipes not chemical compounds or lab experiments. Maybe that is too harsh. But I understand eggs and cheese, I know where they come from. I don’t know what SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE is, so I Googled it (here is what Wikipedia says – Polyphosphates are moderately irritating to skin and mucous membrane because of their alkalinity). Hmm. Not really interested in eating that.

Actually most veggies that you grow yourself or that come from your neighborhood farm taste completely different than those from the buckets in the supermarket. I actually think the veggies in the supermarket don’t really taste like much. A carrot that was harvested yesterday tastes very different from one that was harvested a few weeks ago, then spent the next few days on a truck, then the next few days sitting in the supermarket. I think the flavor must just drain out of everything as time passes. Also in the supermarket there are very few types of veggies or fruits. Very rarely would you see a Green Zebra or a Brandywine, and those are just tomato variations! Each of these variations tastes completely different, we are only really offered one or two types of tomatoes at the supermarket. These two types of tomatoes are the kinds that travel well and that are easiest to ripen or harvest. I actually don’t like the kind in the supermarket, I like Brandywines. They are sweeter.

I think kids might like veggies if they could choose the varieties they like, but they can’t because the choice is so small. I wouldn’t eat tomatoes if I could only eat the kind in the supermarket.

2. Food taste better when you grow it yourself

Food tastes better because your work is in it. I am an impatient gardener, so for me the food tastes great because I have had to wait for it to go from seeds to seedlings to flowers to fruit to ripe fruit. Somehow that makes it taste like you did it. So i guess there is a little bit of pride in those vegetables.
(more…)

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