This Is Why I Give A Guided Tour Of The Farmer’s Market: Union Square

By on June 24, 2010

Hey Everyone!

I know that I haven’t written in a while. I have been preparing some
really great programs that you are going to love…so I have
gotten a little behind in blogging.

I ran across this article today from Dianne Gregg’s newsletter,
and was dying to share it with you…

These are the exact reasons that I shop at the Farmer’s Market,
and NOT at Whole Foods!

If you are overwhelmed with not knowing
what to buy at the farmer’s market or know which farmer’s to buy from

…don’t fret!

If you are in the NYC area, I am giving a Farmer’s Market Tour in Union
Square on July 17th 10-11:30 (please see registeration to the right of the blog) to get you clear on which farmer’s sell the best produce and meats.

If you aren’t in the NYC area, you can contact me directly and I will
prepare you on how to tackle any farmer’s market in your area…and walk away with the best produce and meats!

Take a look at this incredible article, and let me know what you think!

Please write in the comment box below… I can’t tell you how much I truly like hearing from you!

Imported foods found with unacceptable pesticide levels have
drawn attention to the USDA’s shoddy certification process.

When you buy food with a “USDA organic” label, do you know what
you’re getting? Now is a good time to ask such a question, as the
USDA just announced Monday it was putting 15 out of 30 federally
accredited organic certifiers they audited on probation, allowing
them 12 months to make corrections or lose their accreditation.
At the heart of the audit for several certifiers were imported
foods and ingredients from other countries, including China.
Chinese imports have had a bad year in the news, making headlines
for contaminated pet food, toxic toys, and recently, certified
organic ginger contaminated with levels of a pesticide called
aldicarb that can cause nausea, headaches and blurred vision even
at low levels. The ginger, sold under the 365 label at
Whole Foods Market, contained a level of aldicarb not even
permissible for conventional ginger, let alone organics.
Whole Foods immediately pulled the product from its shelves.
Ronnie Cummins, the national director of the Organic Consumers
Association, emphasizes that most organic farmers
“play by the rules.” They believe in organic principles and
thereby comply with organic standards. Unfortunately, Congress’
pitifully inadequate funding for enforcement, including for
organic imports from countries like China, “guarantees it’ll
be easy for unscrupulous players to cheat, and that’s obviously
what’s going on here.”

Farms that produce USDA-certified organic food are not personally
inspected by anyone from the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).
As a small and under funded agency within the USDA (it has fewer
than a dozen employees), NOP relies on what it calls Accredited
Certifying Agencies — ACAs — to do the legwork. The ACAs take
responsibility for ensuring that any farm or processor bearing the
organic label meets the strict requirements for certification.
Since the Chinese government does not allow foreigners to inspect
Chinese farms, an extra step is involved for oversight of organics
from China: Chinese companies, which are allowed to inspect
Chinese farms, subcontract with foreign ACAs. Cummins believes
“the safest course of action is … to say we won’t certify imports
from China because their law won’t allow inspections.”

For Americans who shop at the growing number of farmers markets
springing up around the country, the status of organics from China
— or even organics from faraway U.S. states — may be irrelevant.
Just as the hippies who founded the movement intended, ethical
eating extends beyond pesticide-free food for these shoppers, some
of whom call themselves locavores, meaning “one who eats food
produced locally.” They wish to support small farmers and to ensure
their food was produced in an environmentally friendly manner by
workers who were treated well and paid fairly. And no matter how
strict a law may be, there will always be those who game the system.
Even if a Chinese inspector notices illegal pesticide use, he or
she might feel pressured to stay silent, says Dr. Robert E. Hegel,
professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Washington
University in St. Louis. “Everybody there is so proud of increased
production that few people ask much about the farmer’s production
methods,” says Hegel. “And there’s no ‘organic’ food tradition in
China.” According to Hegel, in China “everything was just ‘food’
and it was, until the 1950s, mostly ‘organic’ by our contemporary
definitions — fertilized with human and animal waste, compost … and ashes.”

But for an American looking for high-quality organics, the number
one way to ensure that’s what you’re getting is to buy directly
from the farmer. Farmers markets or CSAs (community supported
agriculture — arrangements in which consumers buy a share in a
farm and receive weekly boxes of produce) are excellent ways to
go as you can often meet the farmer or visit the farm yourself.
Even if you can’t make the trip to the farm personally, typically
a farmers market sets rules around what is and is not permitted at
the market (for example, only allowing produce grown
within the state), and a market manager visits each farm to
guarantee adherence to the policy.

The problem with fraudulent Chinese organics merely drives home
the larger problem that sustainable and ethical eating is about
forming relationships, and trying to fit it into the global,
industrialized mold of the rest of our food system does not work.
For example, the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based watchdog
agency, reports on American dairies Horizon and Aurora, which
operate organic factory farms milking thousands of cows each.

Over the past year, the USDA finally penalized Aurora, supplier of
private label milk to Wal-Mart, Safeway and Costco, for violating
organic standards. While the National Organic Program is poorly
funded, perhaps it would be more effective if the USDA staffed it
with people who felt strongly about organics. Cummins mentioned a
North Carolina organic activist and farmer who suggested eating at
Nora’s, a well-known Washington, D.C., organic restaurant, to
NOP staff. He was shocked when they responded enthusiastically
that they would love to try it because they had hardly ever eaten
organic food before.

Because organics (and ethical eating in general) is ultimately
about values and personal relationships, Cummins believes the
most important next step is establishing a peer review panel,
as called for by law, “so that respected members of the organic
community can monitor and police violations of organic standards
on the part of producers, importers and certifiers.” The USDA
acknowledges the requirement of a peer review panel by law but
has yet to implement it.

Because knowledgeable members of the organic community who share the consumers’ values will be able to look out for their interests,
consumers can feel more confident in the organics they buy from
the store with a peer review panel in place. Store-bought organics
might not be equal to buying directly from a farmer, but in today’s
hectic world, when you can’t make it out to a farm or a farmers
market, we need to make sure they are a close second.

This article written by Jill Richardson regarding organic foods.

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