A conversation with organic food growers

Aug 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m. ET

Ever wonder why a farmer would want to grow organic foods instead of following the conventional agricultural practices of larger factory farms? For most organic food growers, it is a commitment to producing food that is healthy for consumers as well as good for the environment. Organic farmers Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht of New York-based Garden of Eve Farm share their views on why they are dedicated to growing organic foods.

Organic Farmer

Organic farmers take pride in their work

Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht are organic food growers. Their farm, the Garden of Eve Farm, is located in scenic Riverhead, New York, just minutes from the beach and about 80 miles east of Manhattan.

One of the things that makes the Kaplan-Walbrecht's Garden of Eve Farm so special is their dedication to growing quality organic crops. They produce 70 different types of vegetables, 20 varieties of herbs, and 30 types of flowers. They are also environmental advocates, and they definitely practice what they preach.

"We don't use any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or petroleum-based fertilizers. In a word, no poisons on the plants that we grow, or the air, water, or soil," says Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht. "If a farm is not organic, it means they are very likely using large amounts of these chemicals."

Why is being certified organic so important?

To be classified as a certified organic farm you have to meet with the strict guidelines that have been set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Part of the USDA certifying process includes an inspection of the fields, soil, crops, and an assessment of how the growers handle pest control issues and weeds. In addition to this, livestock is inspected, as are the food and health records of those animals. In fact, the entire farm and its processes are examined. This doesn't include the copious amount of paperwork that must be completed to document the facility's history and present set-up.

"The fact that we are 'certified organic' tells you that we have gone through a very rigorous certifying process conducted by the Northeast Organic Farming Association and USDA," Kaplan-Walbrecht explains. "We have proven that we use no synthetic herbicides, fertilizers, or pesticides, that we use cover crops to enrich the soil, and are good stewards of our environment."

Organic foods are healthier for your family

For consumers, the importance of this certification process cannot be minimized. Only certified organic food growers can label their produce as organic, informing consumers that the food they are buying is indeed organic. People who buy organic want to know they are feeding their families food that is all natural. Organic food is free of the artificial flavors, preservatives, and hydrogenated oils that are found in non-organic foods.

"You're not ingesting any poison residues that might make you sick down the line," Kaplan-Walbrecht says of the benefits of eating organic. Organic food is also believed to be richer in vitamins and minerals.

Organic farming supports the community and the earth

Another reason to buy organic, she says, is because it aids the community. "You're supporting families and businesses that treat the earth in a sustainable way."

The cost of organic food is often a deciding factor on whether food shoppers buy organic or not. Organic food may be more expensive (but not always) than its non-organic counterpart, but there's a reason for that.

Kaplan-Walbrecht explains, "When you purchase an organic product you are paying to protect your own water, air, and soil. You are paying the real environmental and human cost of producing food in this country, not an artificially low price that doesn't include the future costs of health bills and environmental degradation from the toxic chemicals that are used."

Tips for buying organic foods

Whether you want to adopt an organic-based diet or simply incorporate more organic foods into your family's meals, Kaplan-Walbrecht shares the following three tips:

  1. Focus on learning to cook and eat more organic vegetables.
  2. Don't get confused by "organic" processed foods, the key is to eat whole foods, ideally locally grown on small farms.
  3. Support your local farmer's market and your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, and you will benefit by keeping farming alive in your community.

Organic farming is good for everyone

Like many organic food growers, the pride that the Kaplan-Walbrechts take in their organic farm is clear. The organic foods they produce are high quality and healthy for consumers, and the couple's organic farming practices have many positive effects on their community and environment.

The next time you're at your local farmer's market or in the grocery store wondering what to make for dinner, check out the available organic foods and take a delicious organic bounty of health home to your family.