Hooray for CSA! (Day 198)…

September 14, 2007

bean rows

When I paid a visit to Sunbow Farm last month in Oregon, I learned the real importance of maintaining an organic diet — especially when it comes to squash! (That’s our group in the photo above, by the way, after weeding two rows of Harry’s organic beans)

But when it comes to lessening one’s ecological footprint, it’s usually more important to eat locally than organically. So while I’ve been careful to ensure that all my meat, dairy, eggs and tubers are 100% certified, I’m a little more slack with the rest of my food, so long as it comes from within Canada or the U.S.

(On a related note: I had a dream last night in which I was shopping and found a banana from Florida! I was so excited to put it on my cereal in the morning … then I woke up. No banana.)

I’ll usually head to a farmer’s market on the weekend, and if I’m at a bigger grocery store, I’ll always check the “product of” labels to make sure I’m not eating anything that’s been flown in from Chile or New Zealand.

Now, as I’ve been told by my American readers, there’s a solid trend in the States of community supported agriculture, otherwise known as a CSA. If you belong to one of these groups, you can get locally grown food delivered to your door each week, straight from the farm. I’d been looking for a while for something like this in Toronto to no avail, until I finally lucked out, finding not one, but two of them!

The first was the adorable sounding Chick-a-Biddy Acres. The second was Green Earth Organics. I was originally going to sign up with Chick-a-Biddy because the website was just so darn cute and it was a more official CSA. But then I couldn’t quite figure out when their deliveries would start and exactly how much I’d get. The site for Green Earth was a bit of a navigation nightmare, but in a way that was sort of endearing — I mean, real hippies shouldn’t even know what HTML is, right? (Kidding)

Either way, they sold me on the fact that their food baskets were both organic and local (I checked up on just how local, and it seems at least 80% comes from Ontario, the rest usually from B.C.), and on top of that, 10% of their profits go to various charities around the city.

So I’ve signed up, and am expecting my first delivery this afternoon. If it’s too much food, I can always scale back the number of deliveries, or just share it with friends. And I’ll of course make sure to post a photo of my vegetable cornucopia when it arrives!


Tuber or not tuber (Day 179)…

August 26, 2007

squash

On the recent cycling trip I took through the valleys of Oregon from Portland to Eugene, we stopped along the way at various organic farms. One of the most interesting was Sunbow, owned by Harry MacCormack, located near the university town of Corvallis.

Harry, it turns out, is a bit of a celebrity in the organic farming industry. He wrote The Standards and Guidelines For Organic Agriculture, which became the basis for Tilth certification and other programs in the U.S. and abroad. Now, local farmers will often use Harry’s soil to test out different crops.

On our first night there, he spoke to us for a while about how he became involved in the organic farming business and the current trend of local, sustainable eating. Then it got a bit frightening as he moved on to discuss pesticides and DDT, the latter of which can apparently linger on in the land for decades.

After about an hour or so, Harry had me convinced that pretty much everything that isn’t certified organic will give me cancer. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but he definitely persuaded me never to go back to commercial dairy products. Or strawberries.

But I didn’t want to fall asleep that night feeling like I could never eat anything again without an appetizer of anxiety, so I asked him what could be done on a consumer level, and his answer was: Never, ever, EVER buy squash that isn’t organic. In fact, even if it is organic, find out which farm it’s from and whether the soil has been tested.

The reason, he says, is that if there is any DDT in the soil, squash and other members of the tuber family will suck it all up and store it in their flesh. Tomatoes and fruits may get sprayed with toxic stuff, but it seems their skins doesn’t absorb much of it, so it’s not as important health-wise to enforce the organic rule there.

Now, I’m not about to go lurking around Ontario farmland with a chemistry set taking samples of the soil or anything, but I will be making sure that all the tubers I buy from now on are organic. There’s nothing I love more in the winter than a good butternut squash soup, and I’d rather it not be garnished with carcinogens.

Photo courtesy of Mexicanwave on Flickr


A dairy-tale ending (Day 142)…

July 20, 2007

love me moo

Now that I’ve pledged to only eat happy meat and free-range eggs, my final installment in the Ethical Eating Trilogy of this challenge will be to limit myself to organic and if possible rennet-free dairy products.

“Rennewhat?” you say. “Don’t tell me there’s another ingredient I’m supposed to be worrying about!”

Unfortunately, there is, unless you’re one of those people who eat veal and can still sleep at night with tortured baby calves on your conscience (in which case, you know what, just leave. Seriously — just go, because this really isn’t going to work out).

While I know approximately nothing about cheese-making other than the fact that it involves words like whey, bacteria and curd, a Wikipedia entry provides this run-down on what exactly rennet is, which in turn explains why a lot of organic cheeses come with the tagline “rennet-free”.

Milk products in general have been getting a bad rap lately, and folks like Meghan will be happy to go on about how we’re not really meant to digest milk in the first place and it’s full of udder pus and our digestive tracts don’t like it and so on. But because I’m Caucasian and my lactase enzyme is in perfect working order, and because if I don’t consume any dairy my body starts telling me to with specific cravings for cheese, ice cream and yogurt, and finally because I believe in the practice of dairy farms, I’m going to continue eating these things (there’s a cute lactose tolerance campaign going on right now with a very funny video, and I’d endorse it wholeheartedly if it weren’t being run by Nesquik).

After browsing around the Dairy Farmers of Ontario website, pretending I was a farmer and looking up all their safety regulations — I had no idea there was such a thing as teat dip, or for that matter teat-dipping cups — I’m reassured that most local, small-scale dairy farms are bovine and human-friendly. But it’s not as though one single farm produces all the milk that ends up in a carton of Sealtest or Beatrice.

The safest, most ethical way to go here, I think, is to make sure all the dairy products I consume are organic, unless I can verify that it comes directly and solely from a good local farm.

Photo above from my personal collection — “Love me tender, love me moo” by Bill Weedmark. The cows are from a farm in Napanee, ON (yes, the birthplace of Avril Lavigne).