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Gardening

by Anne Englebert on March 5, 2012

Eating organic has lots of benefits compared to conventional food; it is healthier for you and better for the environment. However, the price for enjoying the freshness and goodness of organic vegetables and fruits can often be quite expensive if you don’t know the right way or places to buy them on the cheap. Here are five green tips that will help you to eat organic and local without breaking your food budget:

1-  Shop at Local Farmers’ Markets: The farmer’s market is a great source of local and fresh organic produce at great prices. Similarly eating local straight from the farmer will reduce your carbon footprint as these products do not travel from all over the world to end up on your plate. The farmers present on local farmers’ markets come only from a maximum distance of 100-miles.  Moreover, eating organic food from local farms is also a way to support the local economy of your community as the large majority of organic farms are small farms. You can easily find local Farmers Markets nearby by simply typing the name of your city along with “farmers market” into your search engine. You can also use the website Local Harvest that lists every place where you will be able to buy cheap organic foods.

2- Receive an organic basket of seasonal vegetables and fruits: Organic vegetables and fruits are often cheapest during the times in which they are most abundant. You can save even more money on organic food by joining a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  The program can supply you with seasonal food directly from local farms on a weekly basis. A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public, and these shares consist of a basket of vegetables, but other farms products can be included. Whatever the farm grows each week, you get your share of the yield. However, you can’t choose exactly what you want, you get what the farms grows. So as long as you’re not picky, you will always get the best seasonal produce for the cost of conventional produce in the grocery store or even cheaper. For fruits and vegetables that you do not like or have allergies to, most CSAs allow you to list the items that you do not want to receive.

3- Join an Organic Food Buying Club or an organic food Co-Op: A food cooperative or a buying club are a great way to get the organic produce you want on the cheap. Local co-ops typically works by gathering people who all want to take advantage of bulk buys as well as sharing the cost and savings.  Then the co-op is responsible for contacting local farms, distributors, or other sources to get the best prices on bulk orders and order accordingly for the entire group. After the produce is delivered, it’s divided up equally amongst the members. The best website to find food co-ops near you is Weston A. Price Foundation Local Chapters that only lists active co-ops.

4- Buy organic food directly from the farm: If you have more time or you are not living too far away from an organic farm, go visit the farmers and their farms yourself. You can directly check with them the quality of what you buy — either organic vegetables or organic meats. It is perhaps not the best option to save money, however, going directly to the farm can give you some great discounts! Go on Eat Wild Farm Directory to find local farmers that offer a variety of meats or on Local Harvest for organic vegetables.

5- Grow Your Own Organic Vegetable Garden: The cheapest way for getting healthy, fresh, organic vegetables and fruits is to start your own kitchen garden. It’s a great option to get extremely fresh foods on the cheap while spending time outside and working in your garden with your family. Even the first Lady Michelle Obama started a garden at the White House in 2009, so why not you?

Thanks to these options, you can now avoid paying a premium for organic produce and easily find cheap organic foods in the way you prefer that is most convenient for you and your family.

I’m ready to garden! What are the best crops for me to grow in my first garden?

To guarantee the success of your first garden, stick with the easy vegetables listed here, which grow well in minimally improved soil. (Over time, you can improve your soil by adding organic fertilizers and compost.)

Begin planting your first garden in early spring, about four weeks before your average last frost. Locate information this information in Know When to Plant What: Find Your Average Last Spring Frost Date.


In early spring, kick off the season with these easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs:

  • Salad mix, aka mesclun, is a seed blend of lettuces and other salad-worthy greens. Buy two packets — one that’s mostly lettuce and another that includes mustards, kales or escaroles so you can learn how all these greens grow. Sow small patches of each mix, and then plant a little more a few weeks later. Save your leftover seed in the fridge and plant it in late summer for a lush fall crop.
  • Perennial herbs such as thyme and sage are easy to grow, and they come back each year. Purchase starts, which are grown from cuttings of superior varieties.
  • Potatoes grow from sprouting spuds, and you can grow only one or two plants and get good yields. In your first garden, try planting a few small, organic potatoes purchased at the store.

In late spring, plant these vegetables after your last frost has passed:

  • Bush or pole beans (collectively called green beans) are a top crop for any first garden because they adapt to a wide range of soil types.
  • Tomatoes are a garden favorite, but for your first year I suggest starting with only two types — a cherry, such as ‘Sweet 100’ or ‘Sun Gold,’ and a medium-sized slicing tomato, such as ‘Early Girl.’ Wait until next year, when your soil is better and you have some experience, to try large-fruited heirlooms.
  • Summer squash can be phenomenally productive, but put in at least three plants to ensure good pollination and fruit set.

In late summer, plant more mesclun and fill other vacant space with arugula or Japanese turnips — two underappreciated gourmet vegetables that will grow like gangbusters until cold weather brings your first garden to a close. Good luck!

by Barbara Pleasant , contributing editor of Mother Earth News

A Definition of Organic Food

There is a lot a talk these days about living healthier, greener, more sustainable lifestyles. One of the key things suggested is for us to eat organic food. But what is organic food?

That font of all 21st Century knowledge, Wikipedia, defines organic foods as:

those that are produced using environmentally sound methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

You know, food like your great-grandparents used to grow. Before the oil companies recycled everything into plastic containers for us.

A Brief History of Organic Food

Until the early part of the 20th Century pretty much all the food grown across the world was organic. It wasn’t called organic food – it was just food. Nobody had thought of putting chemicals into soil and sprays to enhance crop growth and yield. And genetic engineering took place over generations as farmers selectively bred to improve their stock or their seeds.

With the rise of the petro-chemical industries in the early 1900s, agricultural research became focused very much on the chemicals that are needed for plant and animal growth. That these chemicals come from finite resources, most often as by-products of oil refining, was rarely thought of. That they could cause other problems was seldom recognized until the problems became too big to ignore.

In the 1930s there was a reaction against the use of chemical additives in people’s food. It was led, in part, by Rudolf Steiner who also designed an educational system based on his holistic and sustainable outlook. These early organic farmers and foodies laid the foundations for today’s interest in sustainable lifestyles.

How Can You Be Sure That Your Food is Organic?

The early followers of organics were often dismissed as anti-scientific cranks. Nowadays, organic production is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture, and there are millions of dollars being spent to research more sustainable farming methods. But, unfortunately, organics still account for a minority of the foods grown. In 2008, less than 1% of agricultural and pastoral land in the US was certified organic.

Most nations have a government regulated system that certifies that those people who claim to be selling organic produce are actually doing so. It will vary from country to country, but most systems will be affiliated with the international umbrella organization IFOAM. You can check with IFOAM to make sure that the organic accreditation is actually recognized.

Sources

1. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic/

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food

3. http://www.ifoam.org/

4. http://world.edu/worldedu_posts/organic-food-history-organic-food/