I have been traveling a great deal to Pasadena, California to take care of my mother this year. She has been battling cancer which I am glad to report seems to be in remission!
While I have been there I discovered there was a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays near where she lived. I was so delighted to find it since I am totally addicted to our Boulder Farmer’s Market and rarely miss a Saturday during season. I did notice when I went to the one in Pasadena that they had a big sign saying the produce was local but didn’t mention organic. Consequently I made note of which stands specifically mentioned organic or ‘not sprayed’ as in the case of one of the strawberry stands and purchased from them. It made me appreciate the Boulder market even more as I assumed it was totally organic.
This week my friend Rowan Rozanski from Jay Hill Farm, where I buy all my greens every week, sent out an email on the entire organic subject. I was sad to learn that not all is as seems, even in our Boulder Farmer’s Market. I have asked her to share the following with you so as to better educate you about your local farmer’s market. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did!
This last bit is… well… a rant. Feel free to skip it, but I think this is something that applies to anyone who tries to buy local and organic. :)
One of our long term customers, Christine, recently asked:
“On a completely different note, I read an article this morning about California Farmers’ Markets where the vendors are supposed to be growing their produce organically— but do not. There’s simply not enough oversight to ensure they are meeting organic standards. How does the Boulder Farmer’s Market ensure that all vendors are selling organic produce?”
She was referring to this article, which ran in the Huffington Post last week: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/09/california-organic-food-s_n_640654.html
She is not the first person to ask this question. While the Boulder County Farmer’s Market, as my father and other early board members envisioned it, was to be an organic and local vendor’s dream, much of the dream has disappeared for the sake of plentiful vegetables and fruit. While still local, there’s very little focus on Certified Organic growers. Many of the new vendors over the last few years have in fact been the antithesis of what my family and I stand for.
Please understand, this is not a rant about the market, it’s a problem of perception throughout many communities in America. Farm stands around the country have been known to prevaricate as well. “Family”, “Local”, “Home Grown” are all phrases that mean absolutely nothing. It is ILLEGAL to claim your produce is organic unless you are certified by the USDA and the state of Colorado or unless your yearly farm income is less than $5,000 a year.
Many of the farms at BCFM are NOT organic. ASK! When you hear a sentence like “we don’t spray”, that means absolutely nothing. You don’t have to spray nitrogen, miracle grow, or any other substance to add it to the soil, ground water and produce. Once of my biggest gripes with the market was that you can only use “Organic” on your sign if you’re certified, but nothing says you have to say “not organic” Most people simply assume it’s all good, and go for the lower priced items that are not organic. This is unfair and harmful to those of us who are certified. Yes, our prices are higher, but there’s a reason for that!
The organic certification process is over 60 pages of documentation, almost $1000 a year, and requires a 3-5 hour inspection by a certifier once a year. We buy organic seed (NEVER treated) when available at a high (sometimes more than double) premium, and make sure our compost and nutrients meet federal standards. It’s a grueling, expensive process that is necessary, and worthwhile, for your peace of mind and ours. *sigh*
If you would like to see what farms in Colorado ARE certified, you can check at:
http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Agriculture-Main/CDAG/1216022437979 (click on certified organic producers).
Please understand that this rant is not to inveigle you into buying more produce from Jay Hill Farm. Buy wherever you want! It’s so that folks understand the difficulties faced by those of us who give our word to you and your families that we are doing our best to grow locally, sustainably, and with as much care for the earth and our fellow man as we can.
Thanks for your understanding and time!