I was out in my garden this afternoon, picking tomatoes and peppers and cleaning up some plants that are finished for the season and I was reminded of how amazing it is that I can produce my own food in my own back yard.
Earlier this summer, I shared with you that I was embarking on the journey of a beginner backyard gardener so that I could take some control over the food that my family eats.
It’s been a cool journey. I’ve been enjoying vegetables from my backyard garden most of the summer but today seemed like a real ‘harvest’ day. The cooler days and nights are turning some of my peppers delicious shades of red and orange and I’m excited to try them.
I picked some of them but I still have quite a few tomatoes that I’ll pick in the next couple of weeks that will be the test subjects in my first attempts at canning and freezing so that I can enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labour throughout the winter months.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed episode 9 of my television show Living Well that covered seasonal, local and organic food. I interviewed the Horton Street Market Manager Shawn DeVree and the Community Gardens Co-ordinator Brigitte Cosens.
Harvesting the beautiful organically grown veggies from my garden today reminded me that, during those interviews, we only just touched on the details of what exactly ‘Organic’ means so I thought we should explore that a little more today.
So what exactly is Organic?
Organic Agriculture is about more than just growing foods that are pesticide free. Organic food products have been grown in a way that promotes biodiversity, protects the health of the soli, water and air, and uses environmentally sustainable practices.
Other goals of organic growers and farmers include giving livestock humane conditions for the health and well-being of the animals, and recycling materials and resources to minimize using non-renewable resources.
The farming practices in our modern society have taken us away from these practices that were once common.
Why would I choose Organic foods?
First and, in my opinion, the most important reason is for your health. Organic products are grown following strict standards to protect water systems and build soil health. As a result, you will get fresh fruits and veggies that are full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Most times, organic foods taste more delicious as well.
Another great reason to choose organic is to help protect and nurture the environment. Organic production respects and takes care of the delicate ecological balance of nature and also promotes biodiversity (the variety of species we have on the planet) by practicing crop rotation using traditional seed varieties.
It’s also great for your local community. Many organic farms are smaller, independent operations that work hard to create food for the communities that surround them.
What’s not being used in Organic Food?
Organic production doesn’t allow the use of:
-synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
-genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
-growth hormones for animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
So…if you now know that organic products are produced without these things…you can assume that many of the products that we all consume regularly are produced using these practices.
Food for thought. (think about organic food 🙂 )
How do I know that what I’m buying is really Organic?
Accredited certification bodies inspect and label farms as ‘certified organic’ and they inspect supplies, production processes, environmental conditions and more.
In Canada, the products can then be labeled with the Canada Organic logo.
In the United States, the product will have the USDA Organic Seal
Other countries will also have their own certification processes.
How is ‘Organic’ different from ‘Natural’ food?
The word ‘Natural’ is used by lots of different manufacturers of all types of foods and products in their marketing efforts. It does not have an agreed upon, uniform definition and may not fully represent what you are expecting when you buy something.
Labelling a food or product as ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it’s organic…or even healthy…since there are very few regulatory rules around using that specific term on foods.
If I want eat Organic, Which are the most important foods to start with?
As it stands now, eating organic food can be quite a bit more expensive than the standard fare in the produce section of your local supermarket.
To get started with Organic foods, visit your local farmers market and talk to a farmer that grows certified Organic vegetables.
If it doesn’t happen to be market season then you should start by replacing the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to contain pesticides.
Here are a list of the top 12:
3)Sweet Bell Peppers
Fruits and vegetables that were ranked the lowest in terms of pesticide load include onions, avocadoes, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangos and frozen sweet peas. So these are the ones that you can continue to buy in the regular section in the grocery store.
Think about the fact that most of these have a thicker skin that would take the pesticide, so the fruit or vegetable inside is less likely to have the pesticide load.
The other thing to think about is what does your family eat the most of? Is it peanut butter, or bread or milk? The things that are consumed the most should be replaced with organic options.
One other thing to consider is growing your own backyard, balcony or window ledge vegetable garden. The veggies won’t be certified organic but because you are the ‘farmer’ you know every detail of how the produce is grown which makes it organic by you!
I hope that this has given you a good start on understanding what is ‘Organic’ and it has inspired you to take more control over what you and your family are putting into your bodies every day.
I’m going to go and cut up some of my backyard garden veggies to put into a delicious pasta dish.
Until next time…
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series ‘Living Well” inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.
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Great information about healthy eating. I love the idea of growing an organic garden. I started out simple with strawberries. I am inspired by your article to expand my garden and put my 'green thumb' to work.
Thanks for your comment Dr. Karyn! I was just a beginner backyard gardener this year and I found it very rewarding! I’m glad that you found some inspiration!