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Stop worrying about labels… Get to know your farmer!

I love organic. Most of the food we purchase from the store is organic, but when it comes to purchasing locally you might not see the word “organic” as much as you would like. I strongly believe it’s important for us avoid ingesting chemicals unnecessarily and it’s incredibly important for the environment and beneficial bugs, but becoming certified to sell organic is very expensive to get into and then maintain, so for small farms, ones that aren’t producing on a very large scale, this might not be possible or economical and you can’t use the word “organic” unless you have been certified or sell under $5,000 worth of product a year. Does this mean that you should pass them up because they don’t have that “organic” label? Does this mean their product isn’t as good? Of course not!!

In stores these labels are the only way farmers or producers can communicate with their customers, but with farmers markets we have the unique opportunity to speak directly to the farmers or producer. Our family basically lives at farmer’s markets. We sell at 5 a week through the busy season! We, ourselves are farmers, and we spend most of our time around other farmers, and I think one of the things I have learned the most from my experience is trusting and knowing your farmers is so much more important than a label. We have all become too reliant on a seal/word. When you buy locally you have the chance to interact directly with the person growing and making your food, your soap, your knitted items, etc. You can ask them about their practices. You can even visit their farm and see where their product is coming from! You can see how the animals are raised, you can see the condition of the gardens or fields, you can see where things are stored… There is transparency. Isn’t that what we are screaming for with our labels – no gmo, organic, free range, etc? We want to know about the farming practices. We want transparency.

We are a small dairy goat farm. It would not make sense for us to go through the process of becoming organic at this point in time, but we run our farm as organically as possible. We do not use chemicals on our garden or pasture. We use natural fertilizers (compost and manure). Our feed comes from a small local farm who makes all natural non-GMO feed, our hay is chemical free. We use medications only when it is 100% necessary for the health of the animal and then we go through a longer than suggested milk withdrawal period. Our goats are spoiled and loved. We welcome customers to our farm (many of our customers know our goats by name) and love showing off our hard work. We talk about our processes and the materials that go into our soaps. We do whatever we can to provide the best product possible. When we are working directly with our customers that extra expense seems so unnecessary. Especially since that expense would just be passed on to those customers.

We have many farm friends who are producing “organic” produce (organic in every way but not certified). They are on their hands and knees in the fields fighting bad bugs and doing what they can to attract good bugs. They know their soil and only use natural fertilizers. They work hard to give their customers healthy, chemical free produce.

We have friends who raise meat animals that spend their days on pastures, in green grass, and under the sun. That eat non-gmo feeds. They also spoil their animals and love them. They also want to provide their customers with the best product they possibly can.

Are any of these farmers “less than” because they don’t come with a label on their products? Are they not trustworthy? No… I believe the organic movement is incredibly important, its good for us as humans and our environment, but the local movement is what needs our focus. Transparency is important and transparency can be achieved without labels. Shop local… Know your farmer!