Most organic farms select particular varieties of vegetables for their flavor and nutritional value, rather than for highest yields or longest shelf life. Large corporate conventional farms often artificially ripen their fruit to promote longer shelf life and more uniform color, but this results in a poor tasting, bland product. Letting the fruit ripen on the vine tends to make more "old fashioned" looking produce, similar to the "ugly tomatoes" you might find in supermarkets. But these fruits, when allowed to ripen more naturally, produce more sugars and intense flavor. Most people who are used to supermarket produce have no idea what they are missing until they have tried some home-grown, organic produce! At Savoie Organic Farm, we have had many of our customers return week after week, marveling at how great a tomato or potato can taste! In fact, some of our most valuable customers are produce managers from local supermarkets who purchase from us for their own tables! We take great pride in producing vegetables that exceed our customers' expectations.
Organic produce is grown using all-natural, traditional approaches to farming that promote greater sustainability, improve soil quality, support wildlife, and conserve water and other valuable resources. At Savoie Organic Farm, we practice crop rotation to naturally prevent the spread of disease and pests in our crops from year to year. We use cover crops such as rye grain and hairy vetch to reduce soil erosion and build organic matter and key soil nutrients. The cover crops also provide valuable habitat for wildlife and birds such as deer, fox, and wild turkeys throughout the year. Our fields also provide important refuge for beneficial insects such as lady bugs and the unfortunate honey bees, whose numbers have dwindled in recent years.
Organic produce is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and genetically-modified seed stocks. Because of this, the vegetables and fruits are more flavorful and nutritious. They are also free of all the residual pesticides and hormones present in conventional produce. These contaminants are impossible to remove through washing or peeling, and it is unknown what long-term effects these compounds can have on our bodies.At Savoie Organic Farm, all of our produce is grown from organic seed stocks using pristine well water fed from the giant aquifer that underlies the New Jersey Pinelands. We also select certain heirloom varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables that are naturally higher in antioxidants and amino acids to support a healthier immune system.
Produce that has been "certified organic" often bears the familiar USDA organic symbol pictured below. When you see this sign, you know that the farmer has been held to the strictest national guidelines for the production of food without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and genetically-modified seed stocks. To become certified, a farmer must disclose every detail of his/her farming practices, including the specific varieties of organic seeds used, the types of organic potting soils used to start seedlings, the test results from wells used to irrigate the crops, the types of all-natural methods used to fertilize the earth and combat common diseases and pests, and the different ways that the farmer creates and preserves habitat for wildlife on the farm. The farm is visited each year by an inspector from a local certifying agency such as the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA). The inspector goes over the application in detail and takes a comprehensive tour of the facilities, inspects all the seed packets, bags of compost, receipts, etc. to verify that all the information provided by the farmer is truthful and compliant with the national standards for organic food production (NOP).
For some small farms, the steps (and paperwork!) of becoming certified seem too daunting. These farmers may use sustainable practices of farming, but they opt to forgo the rigors of becoming officially certified. All too often, these farmers advertise their produce as "organic", or "organic, but just not certified." However, without any oversight from a certifying agency, it is impossible for the consumer to know for sure if they are purchasing truly organic produce. It is a violation of state and federal law for a farmer to advertise their produce as "organic" without the certification if they generate gross sales of $5,000 or more per year (which is not hard to do).When asked why they aren't certified, they may say it's because "the cost of organic certification fees is prohibitively expensive." Don't let them fool you! Contrary to popular belief, it is not expensive to become certified. The true expense in organic farming lies in the enormous labor/payroll and other overhead costs associated with farming according to the NOP. The organic certification fees are nominal, and they are almost entirely reimbursed to the farmer through a federal cost-sharing program. We are a small farm that is proud of its certification, because it means our customers can be confident in the quality and integrity of our produce.
So, when you buy organic, please make sure to look for the USDA symbol! If the farmer says they are certified organic, ask to see a copy of their certification (ours appears below). If they are not certified, ask them WHY they are not! We thank you for doing your part to support your local certified organic farmers.
Photo by Cindy Hepner/South Jersey Times
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