Today’s consumers have access to produce grown in a variety of ways by big and small farmers all over the world.
Talking to the farmer or looking for certifications are the best ways to know the social and environmental impacts of your purchasing decisions.
There are several programs that certify farms with environmentally and socially responsible agricultural practices.
Sustainable certification is paramount in that it:
- Requires farmers to manage their farm as an ecosystem
- Minimizes pollution and builds healthy soil
- Includes guidelines for safe and fair labor practices and humane treatment of animals
- Buying locally allows the consumer (or the chef) to build a relationship with the farmer and ask specific questions about growing practices.
- Visiting the farm is the only way you can truly know what goes into your food and how it’s grown.
- A greater percentage of the food dollar goes to the farmer, and remains in the local community.
- Local agriculture increases food security and supports the preservation of our American agricultural heritage.
- Grown without using most conventional pesticides and fertilizers
- Free from synthetic ingredients, sewage sludge, genetically modified ingredients, or radiation.
- Adhere to an organic system plan that describes in detail how the food is grown, what substances are used and how the records are kept.
- Prudent usage of insecticides in crop production combined with “traditional” pest control methods.
- Passive methods based on knowledge of pests’ life cycles
- Mono-cropping, the process of planting the same crop on the same land year after year.
- Use of chemical fertilizers to replenish the soil because mono-cropping severely degrades the soil quality and fertility.
- Destruction of the existing natural nutrients in the soil, leading to a greater dependency on chemical fertilizers.
- A vicious cycle of soil degradation, continuous chemical applications, and outbreaks of disease leading to a weakened ecosystem and polluted waterways.
Some certifications are Food Alliance, Protected Harvest, and the Certified Sustainable Products Alliance.
There is no official certification process for locally grown produce. However, the benefits of the local foods movement often go above and beyond organic.
Certified organic produce has been regulated by the USDA since 1990.
To become and remain certified, produce must be:
Many small farmers grow produce organically or without pesticides without being certified. Some farmers choose to obtain organic certification, while others consider the certification process too labor intensive and costly.
The goal of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is to manage pest damage using the most economical means with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment.
IPM is a complex process that varies from crop to crop, so it is difficult to create certification criteria. Currently, there is no IPM certification program and foods that are grown using IPM methods are not identified as such in the marketplace.Industrial
Industrial farming refers to agricultural methods that focus on maximum yields. Industrial farms are larger and fewer in number but produce the vast majority of our nation’s food.
They generally practice: