Organic practices are better for us, and they’re also a safer alternative for the environment. Here’s some information for a crash course on the organic industry.
Within the last few decades, we have been hearing more and more about organic farming. Compared with conventional agriculture, organic farming uses fewer pesticides, reduces soil erosion, decreases nitrate leaching into groundwater and surface water, and recycles animal waste back into the farm.
Mounting evidence shows that food grown organically is rich in nutrients, such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, and lower in nitrates and pesticide residues.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines “organically grown” as food that is grown and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. It’s important to note that pesticides that are derived from natural sources such as biological pesticides may be used in producing organically grown food.
According to the EPA, organic production has been practiced in the US since the late 1940s. Since that time, the industry has grown from experimental garden plots to large farms with surplus products, which are sold under a special organic label.
Food manufacturers have developed organic processed products, and many retail marketing chains specialize in the sale of organic products. This growth stimulated a need for verification that products are, indeed, produced according to certain standards. That explains the origins of the organic certification industry.
More than 40 private organizations and state agencies, certify organic food, but their standards for growing and labeling organic food may differ from one to the next.
There may be differences in permitting or prohibiting different pesticides or fertilizers in growing organic food as well as diffirences in the language contained in approved seals, labels, and logos.
By the late 1980s, in an effort to standardize production and certification, the organic industry petitioned Congress to draft the Organic Foods Production Act defining what organic is.
The National Organic Program
The National Organic Program is a Department of Agriculture marketing program within the Agricultural Marketing Service. The NOP’s mission is to develop and implement national standards that govern the marketing of agricultural products as organically produced; facilitate commerce in fresh and processed food that is organically produced; and assure consumers that such products meet consistent standards.
The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 requires the secretary of agriculture to establish a national list of allowed and prohibited substances. This list identifies synthetic substances that may be used and non-synthetic substances that cannot be used, in organic production and handling operations.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center focused on integrated health care, education, and research. potential benefits of organic food include:
• Nutrients. Studies have shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. Organic produce may have more of certain antioxidants and types of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.
• Omega-3 fatty acids. The feeding requirements for organic farm animals (livestock) usually cause higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. This diet includes feeding cattle grass and alfalfa. Omega-3 fatty acids are more heart healthy than other fats. These higher omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic meat, dairy, and eggs.
• Toxic metal. Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soil and absorbed by plants. Studies have shown much lower cadmium levels in organic grain, but not in fruit and vegetables, when compared with crops grown using usual (conventional) methods. The lower cadmium level in organic grain may be related to the ban on synthetic fertilizers in organic farming.
• Pesticide residue. Compared with produce grown using conventional methods, organically grown produce has lower levels of pesticide residue. The safety rules for the highest levels of residue allowed on conventional produce have changed. In many cases, the levels have been lowered. Organic produce may have residue because of pesticides approved for organic farming or because of airborne pesticides from conventional farms.
• Bacteria. The overall risk of bacterial contamination of organic food is the same as in conventional food, but meat produced using conventional methods may have higher amounts of dangerous bacteria that may not be treatable with antibiotics.
A local organic farm
There are many organic farms and wineries in the Hudson Valley region. One of them is Fruitful Harvest Farm, which is based in Kingston, NY. It traces its roots back to 1995.
Headed up by Denise Paschall, Fruitful Harvest Farm specializes in the growth of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers. In 2000, the farm became NY State Organic Farm Certified. In 2002, Fruitful Harvest became certified by Ron Khosla, founder of the Certified Naturally Grown program.
This US-based farm assurance program certifies produce, livestock, and apiaries for organic producers who sell locally and directly to their customers. Founded in 2002 by Ron and Kate Khosla, these organic farmers yearned to provide a simpler and less expensive alternative to the USDA’s national organic program certification.
In 2002, Fruitful Harvest Farm began operating as a CSA farm, which meant that it is “Community Supported Agriculture.” USDA defines a CSA as a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation, so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing food production. Since becoming a CSA, Fruitful Harvest has gone through several iterations, always organic.
“I’ve always grown organically. Farming just felt right to me,” said Denise Paschall, owner, Fruitful Harvest Farm. Her interest in farming extends back to her youth and city upbringing – an likely starting point for a farming career.
When Paschall was a young girl, she lived in Brooklyn with her grandmother. Together, they enjoyed tending to, and eating from, the bounty grown in their spacious backyard garden. This special plot of land produced lots of colorful, gorgeous flowers and delicious vegetables that were used to make family meals. Paschall says she always enjoyed spending time outdoors in the summer air with her grandmother. Immersed in nature, she indulged in the sweet scent of the flowers and the aroma of freshly picked vegetables.
Of course, being in that garden was a sharp contrast to the lifestyle experienced by most Brooklyn residents. “I felt peace, joy, and very much at home in this garden, and I fell in love with the feeling and lifestyle,” added Paschall.
Many miles from Brooklyn, Paschall now uses that city garden inspiration and her skills for the farm market she helms at Fruitful Harvest Farm.
She currently runs a small quarter-of-an-acre farm. In addition to giving seasonal help, Paschall’s son helps his mom with farm duties. “It’s no till permaculture and produces an enormous amount of food on a small footprint. That way, is easier for me to manage and enjoy,” she added.
Fruitful Harvest’s current business model involves selling specialized produce via online sales. “It’s not a CSA, but rather a bi-weekly online order format where folks can order what they want and really be more involved in what they purchase and how to enjoy it without a lot of food waste,” said Paschall.
Her current focus and vision was to combine all of these “wonderful God-given gifts,” as a holistic health advocate, professional chef, and organic farmer to help empower folks to take authority over their health, both spiritually and physically.
This creative businesswoman certainly has loads of talent and entrepreneurial spirit. Thanks to those skills, Paschall has enjoyed a variety of creative stints. Beyond managing her own home decor business, she was a landscaper, professional chef and caterer, and contractor. Regardless of which hat she wears, Paschall always had a garden or farm in the works.
“Farming is a challenge. There are so many variables that change day to day, but it keeps me learning and always growing,” she added.
Paschall believes that toiling the land, tending to flowers, and caring for the earth and animals is an incredible gift and blessing. “Everything we need to farm in the most healthful (organic) way was given by God. We have herbs, which have incredible health-sustaining properties, flowers for pollination, and grains and seeds for healthy soil,” concluded Paschall. When it comes to nourishing ourselves, what more can we ask for?
Fruitful Harvest Farm will open its market on June 7. It will run through November 1. Look for updated information via the farm’s new website, fruitfulharvestfarm.com.
Drinking it in
There are plenty of other organic farms in the region. In Hudson, there’s the Farm at Miller’s Crossing and Ironwood Farm. Stop in to any of the region’s organic farms or visit one of the area’s many organic wineries.
Organic wine is made from grapes grown in accordance with the principles of organic farming, which exclude the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
According to Grand View Research, the global organic wine market was estimated at $8.9 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 10.2% from 2022 to 2030. Grand View Research is a market research and consulting company headquartered in San Francisco.
When purchasing organic, you’ll enjoy great taste and the many benefits of organically grown, but you’ll also be making strides to create a healthier environment that will be here for future generations to enjoy. •
To learn more about Fruitful Harvest Farm, you can call them at (845) 334-0380 or visit them online at fruitfulharvestfarm.com.