Posts Tagged organic

Renaissance Family

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

The Prevailing Winds of Weatherbury Farm

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Rachel Zegerius, Assistant Director of Development and Communications at The Cornucopia Institute

Nestled in the tightly woven hills of the Washington Valley, 35 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, rest the rolling pastures of Weatherbury Farm, purchased by the Tudor family in 1986. Historically a sheep farm, in the mid-1800s this region produced one-quarter to one-third of all of the wool in the U.S. The Tudors still keep a small herd of 10 to 15 lambs in homage to this agricultural heritage.

It took only one season at Weatherbury for the Tudor family to decide that they wanted to seek out alternative farming practices, in contrast the high-input methods being advocated for by extension.

From Left: Nigel, Nancy, and Dale Tudor
exhibit flours in the mill room at
Weatherbury Farm

Both Dale and Marcy came from multigenerational farm families. They remember the days: their parents didn’t spend a lot of money on fertilizers; they spread manure and made hay—an approach that may be considered “regenerative” farming today. So, in 1988, they stopped using chemical inputs altogether.

Over the next several years, the Tudors raised a family on the farm, built a successful cow/calf operation, and ran a rewarding agritourism business—all while also hosting an on-site, farm education program. Weatherbury offered farm vacation stays as a bed and breakfast for 25 years, from 1992 until 2017.

In large part, the Tudors have kept the farm economically viable over the years because of their unique proclivity to adapt, evolve, and grow access to new niche markets.

This continuous innovation sets Weatherbury Farm apart and is personified earnestly by their son, Nigel. His decision to move back to the farm opened the door for their expansion into grass-fed beef in 2007. Read Full Article »

Certifying Small Farms

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

The Challenges and How Consumers Can DIY

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

Source: Adobe Stock

Farmers markets are in full swing. Whenever possible, we urge consumers to support certified organic farm vendors first. But not all small-scale farmers choose to certify. To help determine if these non-certified farms still meet your standards, Cornucopia released our Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Organic Certification Guide.

Many local farms who sell direct to consumers, either at markets or through CSAs, have chosen not to go through the organic certification process. In some cases, the challenges and obstacles inherent in the certification process are prohibitive and do not serve small farmers.

While Cornucopia advocates unequivocally for organic foods and organic farmers, it is important that we recognize and explore these issues within the certification process. Michael Losonsky, the owner of a small organic vineyard in McMinnville, Oregon, spoke with us to help us understand his situation. Read Full Article »

What’s In Your Pantry?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Cornucopia Wants to Know 

[This article was previously published in the summer issue of  The Cultivator, Cornucopia’s quarterly newsletter.]

by Anne Ross, JD, Director of International Policy at The Cornucopia Institute

For Cornucopia’s team, every workday reminds us of our mission to safeguard organic integrity. This mission is built on values we share with each other, our members, and an increasing number of consumers all over the world.

Source: AdobeStock

Our work has always included an emphasis on consumer education. Whether it’s about organic food production, products available in the marketplace, or the personal stories of the hard-working farmers who produce our organic food, Cornucopia’s goal remains the same.

We strive to ensure the organic label represents all that it promises. But some producers offer more transparency and integrity to consumers than others. While we maintain organic is always a better option than conventional, we aim to highlight the organic products that are truly exceptional.

Our reports and scorecards give consumers the tools they need to support organic brands that meet their expectations. With these objectives in mind, we need your input! We want to know which products you’d like to learn more about and those you would like to see rated. Read Full Article »

Organics’ Relationship to Climate Change

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

by Marie Burcham, JD
Director of Domestic Policy at The Cornucopia Institute

Introduction

Discussing soil health at Vilicus Farms in MT
Source: USDA, Flickr

People choose organic food over conventional food for many reasons. Organic products are nutrient-dense and have fewer pesticide and other toxic chemical residues than conventional food. Organic farming offers benefits to family farms who focus on holistic practices. Now, more consumers are choosing organic and local food for additional reasons.

The foundational principles of organic farming – such as fostering healthy soil, supporting on-farm biodiversity, and the recycling and healthy use of livestock waste – all combat the biggest challenge of our time: climate change.

A Climate Consensus

Scientists and experts studying climate agree that climate change is a serious problem for current and future populations.

In August 2017, climate scientists leaked a draft report of a climate science breakdown to the New York Times. The authors of the report noted the thousands of studies documenting climate changes on land and in the air. Among the more significant of the study’s findings is that it is possible to attribute some extreme weather directly to climate change.

Climate change is not – and should never have been – a political issue. That being said, we recognize that it has been commonly framed as a political issue. It is a human issue on a global scale, just like the good food movement. We are hopeful the global nature of these issues can bring people of all political leanings together. Read Full Article »

NOP Allows Glyphosate in “Organic” Hydroponic Production

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Cornucopia’s Take: The Real Organic Project has brought to light a shocking practice in large-scale, “organic,” hydroponic production. Many of these facilities are being built on land that has been compacted and doused with herbicides, including glyphosate. While the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) uncomfortably insists that this practice is legal because the prohibited substances never touch the plants, most organic producers and eaters would agree that it is antithetical to real organic principles.

Hydroponic Greenhouse

Source: AdobeStock

The regulation found at §205.202, for example, requires that land from which crops are intended to be sold must “have had no prohibited substance… applied to it for a period of 3 years immediately preceding harvest of the crop…” It is unclear how the NOP can work around this regulatory language—and other precepts of organic production—and still maintain these practices are legal. One explanation is that the NOP and their lawyers are willing to bend over backward to accommodate industrial-organic practices.

Cornucopia and our supporters care about organic food for many reasons. We enjoy the quality of real organic food, and we know that healthy soil grows healthy plants, resulting in nutrient-dense crops. Truly organic practices also recognize that the land, nature, and humans can work together to produce a thriving system that also supports local communities economically.

The NOP continues to assert that hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic production is allowed—and always has been. Their assertion shows that organic law is vulnerable to legal arguments and creative corporate loopholes. Real organic farmers continue to lose their markets to industrial-organic producers whose practices compromise the health of the soil, water, and livestock, as well as the quality of our food.

Consumers also have a right to know how their food is produced and how its production impacts the real world. Supporting real organic represents a vote for truth and transparency in a marketplace where regulators seem determined to confuse and muddy the waters.

Our Hydroponic Buyer’s Guide outs some of the major “organic” hydroponic brands. These products are far cheaper than soil-grown organic foods—and you get what you pay for.

Cornucopia will continue to watchdog the NOP and the organic industry, and we will continue to provide information to consumers about what organic really means.


Real Organic Project Weekly Email
by Dave Chapman, Real Organic Project Executive Director

A few weeks ago I got to ask an important question of Jennifer Tucker, the head of the National Organic Program (NOP).

“I have received reports from both Florida and California of hydroponic berry operations that are spraying herbicide, immediately covering the ground with plastic, putting pots down and then getting certified the next week.” Read Full Article »