Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy Organic Week!

It is becoming a too common trend for me to start these blogs with some elaborate excuse for my lengthy absence, but I'm giving that up in favour of actual content that you care about, or maybe you don't, but at least you don't have to put up with my guilt.
Just in case you didn't know, this past week was Organic Week in Canada!  We celebrated a few different ways:

First, we rented land RIGHT in the heart of potato country, surrounded by Cavendish Farms.  This isn't the first time we've been asked  by land owners who want their fields farmed organically, but it's the first time it's been close enough to consider and although it needs a little tender lovin' care, will be a great, reasonable expansion of what we're currently doing.  The landowner is very keen as well and was open to our ideas.  Mark has it cut down and ready for turn over very soon.

Second, we attended the PEI Certified Organic Producers CoOp annual Harvest Meal.  It was good. Well, they ran out of our chicken, and chocolate cake before we got any, and it didn't say it was our chicken anywhere, and the photo slideshow showed only non-organic livestock in a barn, but it was good.  The entertainment was Patrick Ledwell, a local comedian who was hilarious!  My face hurt, I laughed so much.  So funny.

Third, we killed the last of our chickens.  Thanks (in HUGE part) to a family of very resourceful kids up the road, we have refined our processing line to a point where we feel pretty confident that next year we won't have to take any to the abbatoir.  We also got in a shipment of the shrink wrap bags in time for the latest killing and what a difference!  They look like store-bought little treasures, only better because they're pasture-raised and organic-fed! haha!

Fourth, I made some friggin amazing pumpkin pies with pumpkin from Jen and Derek's Farm (where, conveniently I work two mornings a week).  This actually has nothing to do with organic week, but I feel the need to brag about the best pies I've ever made.  It's the first time I used a proper 'pie pumpkin', rather than an ol' jack-o-lantern and I can't believe the difference. There was no water to drain off and it roasted up like a dream!  Combined with some super fresh, rich raw whipped cream, and I'm in heaven.

Lastly, our new batch of chickens celebrated organic week by kicking it in gear and started laying, which is good, since last year's ladies seem to be taking a bit of a vacation.  So for all you egg customers who have been frustrated with our hit and miss egg availability this summer, COME BACK!  They're small right now, but in the next couple months, will be ramping up into insanity.

In other news, Mark is lined up at the start line ready to tackle our first-ever crop of buckwheat that is laid out ready for pick up, as well as the beans which apparently just need "a couple nice days".  Finally the weeds have started to die in my own garden so it's that wonderful time of year when the fruits of my (planting only) labour is revealed! haha.  I lost my tomatoes pretty early on to blight, so I am excited to see my big squash yield, as if that somehow makes up for a lack of tomatoes.  I think next year I'll stick to a couple bean plants, some corn, a row of potatoes and a lot of carrots, squash and peppers.  Working for Jen this summer caused a real downturn in my enthusiasm for my own comparatively pathetic garden compared to the organized Eden she maintains.  Thankfully, a bonus to working there is unlimited veggies as well, so I've been able to fuel my newfound love of kale all season!  That's right! Kale! Whodathunkit!?

The growing season might be winding down, but that just means that meeting season is winding up.  Mark and I are busy trying to meet the various deadlines that come with the national Outstanding Young Farmers event in November.  It's probably for the best that there are deadlines requiring us to work on it now, otherwise, we'd just keep pushing it aside in favour of other speaking engagements that will be here first.  Namely, the ACORN Conference is here on PEI in November as well, and is taking full advantage of our 'knowledge' (and time) ha!!

On top of that, our roller derby bouting season might be over, but tis the season for training Fresh Meat and planning awards galas, so there's a bit of that going on as well.

Abby, I will do my best to post some photos for you this week. (Miss you, but LOVIN' that blog!)  Maybe I'll see if Lucy wants to contribute to the blog with her own entry.  I'm sure she has some interesting perspectives for what goes on around here.  Or at least, a good ol' knock knock joke, which never grow old, if you're to believe the frequency of them around here.

Hope this finds you sleeping with the windows open and heavy quilts.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Studying studies

It had been a while since the media folks had any reason to stir up the organic vs. conventional 'issue' so I figured it was only a matter of time and they never let me down!  Yesterday, a study out of Stanford University (which must make it super awesome right?) came out, actually in favour of organics, but the media managed to swing it quite nicely the other way with some rather exaggerated headlines that grabbed the requisite attention of both sides.  The 'meta-study' (which is just a study of other studies (I'll take chicken gutting over studying other studies anyday!)) was first picked up by the New York Times so if you want to search it, that's one of the first sources of the article.

Of course, you knew I'd have a response.  And I have a variety of responses, but my biggest beef with the whole thing is the word 'healthier', which is what is emphasized because the study looked specifically at the nutrient content and deemed it to not be superior in organic food.  So that's the headline that was grabbed. "Organics is not healthier than conventionally grown food." 

This is my response:

If there were ever terms more subjective than “healthier” and “better”, I’m yet to run into them.  I will not question the merit of the recent meta-study out of Stanford to look at the nutritional benefits of organic food.  I will question the funding for all of the studies that they studied, since they didn’t actually look at organic food themselves and more accurately compiled the results of over 200 other studies.  How many of those studies were funded by multi-national chemical companies and how many fairly evaluated ones supporting organics could not receive funding to publish due to the content?   

But let’s assume for a minute that the world is a naive and beautiful utopia where money doesn’t influence any of our information or how we receive it.  Let’s assume that all of the studies that the researchers studied, were fair, objective and correct.

As a consumer of (nearly exclusively) organic foods, health is the only reason I buy it.  My physical health is better because my food choices are reflected in how I treat myself and my family and given that I have prioritized my spending on organics, I am more likely to be active and encourage activity with my partner and children.  My mental health is better when I know the steak I’m eating has lived on pasture, rather than a feedlot, or that my chicken has actually seen the light of day.  My emotional health is better when I don’t have to wonder how the pesticides in my celery will affect my children.  My reproductive health is better when I don’t have to wonder if the GMO’s in my breakfast cereal will affect me, like they are affecting herds of dairy cattle fed high-GMO diets.  The health of my environment is better when I know my organic farmer is using a longer and more varied crop rotation, letting the soil organisms do their work and building a soil that is better able to withstand drought or flood.   The health of my rivers is better when the fish aren’t washing up on shore as a result of a rainfall, full of freshly sprayed chemicals or fertilizer.   The health of my economy is better when I am buying meat from my local organic farmer who grows their own (non-GMO) grain and spends my money in our community, not exporting it to monopolies who could care less about our region. 

So, is organic healthier? You decide.