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LEARNING ABOUT SUSTAINABLE FARMING ON MY TRIP TO VIRGINIA- WHY CHOOSE ORGANIC?

Written By Camilla Akerberg 14 May 2018
LEARNING ABOUT SUSTAINABLE FARMING ON MY TRIP TO VIRGINIA- WHY CHOOSE ORGANIC?

Where does the food you eat really come from and how is it produced?

Where does the food you eat really come from and how is it produced? I had the privilege to explore this question on my visit to Virginia in the United States last month. If you haven’t visited Virginia yourself, let me paint you a picture. Rolling hills and farmland as far as the eye can see. Small creeks undulating trough the countryside. Fresh air and beautiful estates habituated by some of the friendliest people I have ever met.


 

Going back to the farms

In Virginia, we spent the first few days in an Amish community, which was an incredible experience. It almost felt like we had travelled back in time. The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian people and are known for simple living and their Amish traditional clothing. The Amish do not have electricity- they don’t have phones, computers, iPads, TV’s or many other conveniences of modern technology. Many of the locals we met had never even met a person from Australia, so it was exciting to sit down and chit-chat with them about everyday life there versus in Sydney. One of the skills of the Amish is farming. In fact, the Amish are considered some of the best farmers in the world, so it was an honour to visit a couple small-scale farms in this area.

 
 

Polyface farm- a leading sustainable farming oasis.

From the Amish settlements, we travelled onwards rural Swoope in Virginia and visited Polyface farm. Tai Lopez spent a couple of years living on this farm when he was younger, and he was eager to see the Salatin family again and show us as the family’s renowned sustainable agricultural methods.
 
Sustainable agriculture is farming in sustainable ways based on an understanding of how ecosystems work and the study of relationships between organisms and the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to farms.

Polyface Farm is known for it’s sustainable farming ways. Their goal is to “emotionally, economically and environmentally enhance agriculture”. Polyface farm graze cattle outdoors enclosed by electrified fencing. The cattle is frequently moved to new areas and establishes a rotational grazing system which is ecologically very beneficial. There are no chemical fertilizers used on the farm, only animal manure which is distributed by chickens directly onto the field. The egg-laying chicken run free, and are housed in a mobile trailer that they bond to for food and shelter. The Salatin family also raise pastured meat chickens, sheep, pigs, turkeys, and rabbits. We were lucky enough to arrive on the same day as their new lot of chicken and turkey chicks. It’s not every day you get to be surrounded by hundreds of squeaking baby birds by a heater. One of the orphanage lambs also needed to be fed by the bottle which I happily helped with.

 
 
Polyface farm has a farm-shop where fresh produce is sold for local pick-up and keeps the money within the community which adds to the economically enhancing agricultural method the farm stands for. The diversity in production is good for economy and also better utilizes the grass, breaks pathogen cycles, and creates multiple income streams. It was a wonderful educational experience visiting Polyface farm and seeing how a sustainable farm operates.
 
LEARN MORE ABOUT POLYFACE FARM HERE


Comparing organic farming with conventional methods

Organic produce: Conventionally-grown produce:
Grown with natural fertilisers like manure and compost Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilisers.
Weeds are controlled naturally Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
Pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) or naturally-derived pesticides. Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides
Organic meat, dairy, eggs: Conventionally-raised meat, dairy, eggs
Livestock are given all organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed. Livestock are given growth hormones for faster growth, as well as non-organic, GMO feed.
Disease is prevented with natural methods such as clean housing, rotational grazing, and healthy diet. Antibiotics and medications are used to prevent livestock disease.
Livestock must have access to the outdoors. Livestock may or may not have access to the outdoors.
 
 

Why is organic foods healthier for you?

How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your health as well as the environment. Here are a few reason why to choose organic:
  • Organic foods often have a higher level of nutrients, such as vitamins, antioxidants ad omega-3 fatty acids, than their conventionally-grown counterparts
  • people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen when they eat only organic foods.
  • Chemicals and pesticides are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain in the food we eat and also residues in our bodies. Some studies have linked pesticides in our food to headaches, cancer and birth defects.
  • Organic food is often fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer.
  • Organic farming is better for the environment.
  • Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. Organically-raised animals are given more space and access to the outdoors, which help to keep them healthy.
  • Organic food is GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms and plants DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature. GMOs have been linked to increased food allergens and gastro-intestinal problems in humans.
  • Buying organic may help prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Buying organic can get expensive- where should you spend your money?

Buying grass fed and organic meats is better for you, the animals and the environment so choose organic whenever possible. When it comes to vegetables and fruits- some are usually higher in pesticide levels than others.

List of fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels and are best to buy organic:

  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Hot Peppers

 

These fruits and vegetables are generally low in pesticides.

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Onion
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet Peas (frozen)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe

 

Other actions you can take:

  • Buy in season. Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when they are in season.
  • Find out when produce is delivered to your local shop or market so you can buy the freshest food possible.
  • Shop around and compare prices

 

Hope you enjoyed the blog and learned something new!

Camilla xx