Organic farming refers to the non use of chemical/synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified growth enhancers which become ingestible in the fruits and vegetables we consume. Organic meats and dairy refer to animals that graze on organically grown grain feeds that are natural to their diet rather than ruminated animal byproducts and also include no growth hormones or antibiotics. The irony in this process is that the government has made the organic certification process so labor intensive and costly to the local farmer many remain under another name “sustainable farming”. You can visit the Organic Trade Association website www.ota.com to learn more about organics.
Sustainable farming maintains many of the standards of organic farming with a strong focus on natural stewardship of your farm. Working along with nature, these farmers find ways to combat pests with beneficial insects, using natural manure fertilizers that promote healthier soils, proper irrigation, and crop rotation. Many local farmers today practice sustainability and the government is working on an alternate certification process that is less costly that Organic certifications. You can visit sustainableagriculture.net for more information, or Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education at www.sare.org.
Biodynamic farming is a more holistic, almost spiritual approach which applies sustainable agriculture techniques and natural cycles, treating the farm as a living organism. You are guided by astrological signs and the cycle of the moon to plant and harvest and prepare compost recipes, sometimes buried underground, to remedy soil maladies. This practice of respecting the farm as a life cycle was first defined and promoted in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner in Germany and today is practiced by many farmers, especially vineyards around the world. Visit this website for more information: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Assoc.
CSA / Community Supported Agriculture is a mutually beneficial arrangement between community members and a local farmer in which the farmer provides produce and other farm products during the growing season in exchange for payment before the season begins. Each week of the growing season, the farmer harvests the mature crops and divides the produce into “shares,” typically one for each member of the CSA operation. In most CSAs, the produce supplied in the weekly share boxes is the same for each member. In some CSAs, members can select the crops they want each week from a list of mature crops that are ready to harvest. Farmers deliver the shares to pre-arranged locations for members to pick up, or members pick up their shares directly from the farm. Since CSA members pay at the beginning of the season, they share with the farmer the benefits and risks of farming that result from yearly variations in the weather.
To find a CSA in the area visit www.farmtocity.org.
The Pennsylvania Buy Fresh Buy Local® program celebrates regional foods – heirloom tomatoes, farmstead cheeses, varietal wines, pasture-raised lamb, crisp apples – the abundance and diversity of foods available to you locally is truly inspirational! We create food guides, coordinate tasting events, organize farmers’ markets and sponsor farm tours, among other activities! www.buylocalpa.org
General Market Terms
Certified Organic – Food that has been USDA certified to be raised free of pesticides, hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Note that the certification process can be very intensive and expensive and that many small farms cannot afford the Certification, but practice organic farming. Ask your small farmers at your local Farmers Market if they practice organic farming.
Chemical Free – Crops (including produce and animal feed) grown entirely without the use of chemicals.
Conventional Agriculture – A resource intensive agricultural system that relies heavily on machinery and chemicals to raise crops and livestock. Traditional farm models created a balanced environment where animals/livestock and crops worked in harmony. For example animal waste became fertilizer.
Free-Range/Free-Roaming – Animals that have been raised for all of their lives in systems where they may freely move about in an unrestrained manner. This is a more natural living arrangement for the animals. Most commercial farmers raise their livestock in small spaces to limit movement and the animals develop more body weight, particular fat.
Grass-Fed – Animals that have been raised entirely on grass and are fed little or no grain or corn. This term applies specifically to ruminant animals, cows, sheep, and goats, that are meant to eat grass. This is a more natural diet and healthier for their digestive systems.
Hormone & Antibiotic Free – Animals that have been raised without the use of growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Many commercial animals are given hormones to increase body weight for processing. The animals are forced to live in small living quarters, under unsanitary conditions, that increase their chances for sickness. Some of those trace antibiotics are found in commercial meats we purchase.
Locally Grown – Farm products raised within a 150-mile radius of where they are consumed. This cuts down on travel time to the market. Our carbon footprint is minimized and our locally grown foods are fresh.
Pasture-Raised/Pastured – Animals that have never been confined to a feedlot or feeding floor and have had continuous and unconfined access to pasture throughout their lives. Farm animals traditionally would be moved around to keep them healthy and active. Cows and sheep might seasonally graze in certain fields that produced wild herbs and flowers in the spring or summer that would influence the flavors of the milk produced and the cheese produced from the milk.