Know Your Farms
Some of the best people I know are farmers. Farmers work incredibly hard to provide us with the food we need to survive and for that, I bow down to them in thanks, love and deep gratitude.
That said, it is important to recognize that farming standards and practices vary A LOT, and not all farms produce clean nutrient dense food. Not all tomatoes (carrots, lettuce, potatoes, peas etc) are created equal. The quality of food is directly proportional to the health of the soil it is grown in. If the soil is depleted and dead, the resulting vegetables/fruit will be devoid of nutrition, and most often, chemical fertilizers are used to make up for the lack of life found in the soil. When chemical fertilizers are used, what often results is a plant lacking a strong immune system, incapable of surviving without the aid of pesticides. This results in vegetables and fruit that might look good to the naked eye, but are in fact empty of nutrients, and toxic to one's health. A farmer who understands how nature works, and who truly reveres nature's wise ways, will do his/her best to nourish this very soil that our lives depend on. Healthy soil is teeming with beneficial microbes. It's a living breathing thing. Scoop up some healthy soil in your hands and it should feel soft, moist, warm - and there should be a veritable microorganism dance party going on in it. This is the kind of soil you want your food to be grown in, soil that has been nourished, fed organically and loved on. Sadly, it has become rare to find farms that respect and care for their soil. What is even more disappointing is that the "certified organic" label can't even be trusted anymore.
One of the most disappointing and upsetting things I learned while on my own search for nutrient dense foods, is that most organic farms (at least in my home state, NC) use an amendment called feather meal on their soil. Feather meal is a byproduct of the commercial poultry industry, consisting of partially hydrolyzed and ground up feathers. Feather meal has high levels of nitrogen and is used by many organic farmers as a fertilizer, a practice 100% approved by the National Organic Program run by the USDA. There are so many reasons the use of feather meal by organic farmers makes me indignant:
- These certified organic farmers are directly supporting one of the most inhumane industries alive - namely the commercial poultry industry where chickens are drugged, tortured, and made to live in tiny cages where they are unable to even turn around, without access to fresh air, and sunlight. And that isn't even half of it.
- Scientific studies have confirmed that feather meal is contaminated with toxic substances such as antibiotics, fluoroquinolones, acetaminophen (Tylenol), diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl), and norgestimate, a sex hormone. These very substances are absorbed from the soil, into the very vegetables/fruit that are labeled and sold to us as 'organic.'
How, as consumers, should we deal with this? Simple: know your farmer, visit the farm you buy your food from, ask LOTS of questions, and vote with your dollar.
If you live in North Carolina, there are three farms that I can personally recommend wholeheartedly and with a pure conscience. These farms are farming the best way possible, nurturing their soil, using sustainable closed-loop practices, and working WITH nature instead of against her. Their food is not only organic, but GMO free, nutrient dense, and grown with so much love. These are the farms I buy my food from, farms I have personally visited, questioned and who I am proud to give my hard-earned money to.
Whitted Bowers Farm
Owned and run by Rob and Cheri Bowers in Cedar Grove, NC, Whitted Bowers is one of only two biodynamic farms in the Southeast. They grow some of the most nutrient dense, cleanest produce you will find in the area, if not in the nation. They plant by the moon, infuse their soil with biodynamic preparations, and don't use even a trace of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. Even the smallest details are taken care of here: their fence posts are made of cedar rather than treated wood; their workers are generously compensated; the love at this farm abounds. This farm is so in-line with my values that I actually work for Rob and Cheri whenever they need extra hands, and I proudly help them sell their produce on Saturday mornings at the Carrboro farmer's market. They are known for their berries (especially their famous strawberry u-pick), heirloom melons, and heirloom vegetables.
Heritage Acres Farm
Owned and run by Steve and Jenny Moize and located in Hurdle Mills, NC, this is a truly organic farm where the animals are all pastured on remediated land, and these same animals are given herbal dewormers and herbal remedies when they fall ill. You will find no trace of chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. What you WILL find is happy pastured pigs rolling in some good looking mud, pastured chickens hunting for worms and grubs, and a lot of very spoiled goats. They sell: pasture raised eggs, culinary herbs, produce, blueberries, and figs. They specialize in heritage breeds and heirloom seeds.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (336) 264-4918
New Pasture Farm
Owned and run by Cindy and Chas Rover and their many children in Hurdle Mills, NC, this farm's dedication to sustainable farming practices continues to blow my mind. I am so impressed with them that I buy all my milk and meat from them. And trust me when I say that their milk is a rich yellow, and as delectable as milk could possibly be. Here is their blurb:
"We are delivering nutrient dense, GMO FREE and biotechnology free REAL FOOD from REAL FARMS to a drop location near you. We service the greater Triangle and Triad areas of North Carolina.
New Pasture Farm is a high foraging, multi-species, soy free & GMO free farm. Biotechnology free farming is a passion of ours, as well as providing nutrient dense and therapeutic food for people, pets, and livestock.
The first step for any pasture based farm is pasture quality and health. In NC this can be a challenge, hence the need for farms to rely on grain supplementation. Remediating pastures to have a high brix buys freedom from heavy grain supplementation. Animal feeds are a wide avenue for biotechnology companies power and we want no part of it.
We want to involve, encourage and support other farmers to transition into this state of independence. Therefore we are not only a farm, we are a CSA, a farm co-op, and a NON-GMO feed co-op.
We hope to keep finding creative ways to produce and help others produce the real nutrient dense food you want for you and your pets!
We are able to fully support a 100% GMO FREE lifestyle for anyone interested in doing so. For more details on how to order and receive our food."
Don't take my word for it - go visit them, meet the farmers, meet the animals, ask questions and handle the soil.
Love, D., Halden, R., Davis, M., & Nachman, K. (2012). Feather Meal: A Previously Unrecognized Route for Reentry into the Food Supply of Multiple Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) Environmental Science & Technology, 46 (7), 3795-3802
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