Theres no doubt people in these parts are more and more concerned and conscious about what they ingest. After all, you are not only what you eat but also what your food ate. The organic food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and continually growing. Making sense of labeling or the lack of it can be confusing. Organic regulations and labeling requirements differ from place to place and across different certifying bodies. Despite the popularity of farmers markets and kitchen gardens, here in BC most of our organic produce comes from California because they offer a consistent supply year-round. We are inevitably bound by their rules. Is it GMO, biodynamic, freerange, freerun wholesome, naturally grown? What does any of it mean? We just want good clean nourishment with the least harm to the environment. Right?
Is imported organic the best choice? It’s often overly packaged, travels hundreds of km’s, employs underpaid and often vulnerable illegal workers, and is heavily subsidized. Often farms are big unsustainable monocultures owned by big corporations. If they follow a few rules, there’s a certifying agency that will approve it. When there’s millions at stake and corporations involved, there is always a possibility of corruption. Produce also quickly loses its nutritional value within its shelf life, and tasteless varieties that keep best are preferred. Think California strawberries. Profits can come before your well-being. After all, it’s still capitalism.
So local is the best?
Yes of course! But, it’s limited in our climate.
And, no. For a number of reasons. Local organic out of season is either hothouse grown or warehouse stored using lots of energy and infrastructure. It’s not grown using soil and sunshine. The worst part of the “local” label is that here, as long as it was grown in BC, it can be called local. A Pemberton berry farmer here has no competitive advantage over the thousands of acres of commercial product flooding the market as local. Even a Fraser Valley potato can be sold here as local.
So what is a small scale farmer or even a gardener, who has unadulterated naturally grown surplus, to do?
Certifying is complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Saying that it’s organic is unlawful and disrespectful to those who have jumped through the hoops. What I see all the time is the “no spray” label: this is extremely deceptive because there are a myriad of organic sprays that all good growers use, such as: Bt, neem or horticultural oil, and insecticidal soap. So can you say it’s no spray and feed it tons of miracle grow? I guess, because no one is going to question or test it.
At our small farm we advertise ourselves as “Local and Sustainable” – which at fist glance sounds like a bunch of corporate bullshit, same as what we see from big companies globally. However we are truly local. We have been in corridor for 30 years and farming and homesteading for 25. We have only done business from Squamish to D’arcy. We have never bought, sold or repackaged anything from a middleman. We only do markets and farm-gate sales. We were once certified but found it costly and it wasn’t advantageous for our small scale. We have never deviated from the practices we learned that are acceptable. We are a mom and pop family business and feel our integrity is as important as a healthy environment. We welcome anyone to come and see how we do things.
So the message here is: get to know your farmers, pay them a visit and buy direct and fresh in season. Ask questions. There is no shortage of greenwash out there so buyer beware.