Sunday, December 31, 2017

Organic Educational Seminars Offered for Farmers and Gardeners

3:58 PM

Want to learn more about growing your own organic food?  Don't miss these three in-depth educational sessions on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at Michigan State University about growing organic food.  These seminars are being offered by the Michigan Organic Food and Farming Alliance (MOFFA). 

For more information, check out the Michigan State University Extension and download the brochures.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Do You Know if Your Food is Organic?

6:07 PM
Is your food organic?  How would you know?  That's a good question if you're looking to eat healthy.  The problem is that just like anything, food fraud abounds, according to this one article.So how do you really determine whether your food is grown with no dangerous pesticides and without hormones and antibiotics?  Here are ways to ensure that you have organic food.

What is Organic, anyway?

The term "organic" is a USDA trademark that requires a lot of money and a lot of paperwork to prove
that your produce is truly organic and produced without GMOs, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. There are plenty of loopholes in the USDA law that companies have skirted around.  What's more, there are countries that ship "organic" foods that are simply not organic.

To add to the confusion, there is Certified Naturally Grown, which is food grown to USDA organic standards without the USDA cost and paperwork.  Technically farmers can't call their food "organic" without the USDA seal, so the Certified Naturally Grown is a nice alternative.

Other foods that are labeled "natural" and "non-GMO" aren't organic, and could be grown with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and other no-nos. "Natural" is a throwaway word and marketing gimmick that even I will fall for, but it has no regulation.  Non-GMO means that there aren't genetically modified organisms in the product, but again, the product can be produced by conventional means.

So, how do you determine what's organic other than looking at the label -- which may or may not be correct?

Buy Local--and Know Your Farmer

No matter where you live, you have a chance to buy local and know who is producing your food. Even in New York City, a friend of mine joined a CSA and was able to get fresh produce from a farmer she knew used sustainable methods to grow her food.  Do you have a farmer's market?  You can learn a lot about the farms in your area even if you live in a major city when you talk with the farmers there.

You'll get the freshest food from them as well as food that isn't grown with pesticides and other nasty chemicals.  Not sure if the farmer uses sustainable methods?  Ask. Most are quite honest how they produce their food.  By establishing trust, the farmers learn what you and other patrons want and may change their farming methods to compete in a very difficult market.

Buy Food Produced in a Reputable Country--and One Source

It's generally a good idea to purchase food produced in your own country.  I suspect that most of my readers are in the United States or Western developed countries.  So, if you're buying meat, make sure it was raised and slaughtered in your country. If you buy fruits, ask where the origin is.

Now, obvious there isn't many fresh fruits and vegetables in the wintertime.  In this case, you're going to have to do one of three things: preserve your own food (i.e., freeze, can, or dehydrate), buy frozen and canned food at the store when it is out of season, or buy imported food.  It's not that you can't find a reputable source of food outside your country, but it's much harder to follow trail back to see if it is organic or not.

If you're buying food that is constantly imported, you need to be certain that the country of origin has strict laws governing organic certification.  While this isn't a surefire guarantee that what you're getting isn't fake, you're more likely to have organic food than buying from a country that has a corrupt government. At the same time, be sure that you buy foods from a single source.  That means that you shouldn't trust foods that are mixed up from different countries, especially if the countries have lax standards.

Do Your Research

The Cornucopia Institute is a watchdog organization for organic and sustainable foods. They investigate where your foods come from and rank them according to their ingredients.  They even provide a handy guide for determining if the food is organic even if there are no ratings.  They offer pocket guides and full guides for you to print out and read.

Hunt, Raise, and Grow Your Own Food

This is probably the most time-intensive way to get food for you and your family. That being said, you know what went into the animals and crops you raised, you know how the meat was handled when slaughtered and butchered, and you know where it came from.

All that being said, not even I get all my food from hunting, gathering, raising, and growing my own.  It's difficult, which is why I do rely on store-bought foods.  You can confidently reduce the amount of food which were raised in chemicals instead plan on healthier meals with this guide.

Recommended Articles

You Need to Start Saving Seeds -- Easy and Sustainable!

Do You Know the Difference Between Organic and Non-GMO?

Becoming Locavore 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Free Holiday Wallpaper From Eating Wild Montana!

8:08 PM
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from Eating Wild Montana!  Thanks for being a fan!  As a present to you, I've made a wallpaper to use as your desktop background.  Enjoy!

Download this wallpaper behind the divider.  For Windows 10: Just right-click on the image and select it to download.  Then, when it is downloaded, right click the image again and select Set as desktop background.  It's that easy.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Should Organic Mean Outdoors?

10:00 AM

The Trump administration is set to remove a regulation that the Obama administration enacted requiring organic chickens to have more outdoor time.  This regulation is one that the organic industry wanted in order to level the playing field when it came to factory farms versus organic farms.  Currently, factory organic farms have porches that allow chickens to go outside, but it wouldn't be enough once the regulation took effect.  Now, it is endangered by the possible repeal.

Is Outdoors Simply Good Enough?
Everyone thinks organic chickens get this

When reading this, I had to shrug and say, "so what?"  The picture above shows what a typical "free-range" and "cage-free" farm looks like. Birds are crowded inside and outside the barn.  Their "free range" is on concrete or gravel packed beak-to-comb (as opposed to cheek-to-jowl) with each other.  Now, if you're looking for happy hens, this isn't it.

Of course, the newer regulations may have made this more humane, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the factory farms would get around it. Sorry, that's just how it is.
Instead, most organic chickens get this

Why I don't put a lot of Stock into these Laws

I'm at best skeptical over these laws.  Why?  Because factory farms will find loopholes or will have administrations change or nullify the laws.  Look at what happened to the point of origin laws.  Sure enough, the Obama administration repealed an excellent law that enabled people to know where their food is coming from. So, no matter what administration we have, we'll have politicians in the pockets of factory farms and someone somehow will find a loophole.

If my farm were to become a fully viable chicken venture, I could never claim organic because my
A nice indoor set up
chickens are in a barn.  But unlike the factory farms, they're 17 chickens in a 30 ft by 50 ft barn and have the whole run of it.  They get grain and food scraps, along with the occasional hay, alfalfa, and bugs, but they don't get to go outside, even though the barn is open to fresh air.  Why?  Because we have hawks, eagles, foxes, lynx, weasels, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, and an assortment of other (much bigger) predators.  One rooster I had decided that the barn was not the place to hang out in.  He thought living outside was a great idea and tried to perch outside the barn.  I took him back when I could. When he finally got away from me, he hung outside  the barn where I could do nothing to catch him.  That lasted two days.  I woke at night to a chicken scream -- and then, nothing.  The next day, I found the feathers where the resident fox had his meal.  So, no outdoor poultry -- and no "Organic" label, even though the eggs my chickens lay would most likely qualify.

Even if I did want my chickens' eggs to have the "Organic" label, it would cost lots of money and tons of paperwork to accomplish.  I'll stay small, thank you.

Outdoors or Indoors?

I think it's not a matter of whether your chickens are indoors or outdoors, but rather what quality of life they have.  Are they crammed together with little space to move around in, or do they have plenty of space to do chicken things like dust themselves, make nests, look for bugs, and scratch in the dirt?  Are they safe from predators?  Do they have a reasonable life for chickens?

The best thing is to know where you're getting your eggs from, even if they're not organic or certified organic.  Preferably from your own chickens in their own coop.  But if you can't own chickens, consider purchasing eggs from small farms that sell at local farmer's markets and ask how the chickens are kept.  That way, you support your local economy, have great tasting eggs, and have birds that are raised humanely.

Monday, December 11, 2017