Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Uptown Westerville Farmers' Market: How Does a Garden Grow? A Glossary of Basic Market Terms

The Uptown Westerville Farmers' Market features produce that is certified organic, chemical-free, and conventionally grown. Just what does all that mean?

Here are some market terms you may hear and see at the Uptown Westerville Farmers' Market:

Organic: The original principles of organic farming are based on the minimal use of off-farm inputs and on practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony. When ecological harmony is achieved, the need for measures to control pest damage is reduced because the plants are healthier and do not attract the pests. Organic farming practices do not ensure that products are free of residues; it stresses methods to minimize pollution to the air, soil, and water by using products that readily break down in the soil. Organic is a method used to produce food, not the food product itself.

Certified Organic: Under the USDA National Organic Program, all products sold as “organic” must be certified. Certification requires a farm to submit a production plan and be inspected annually by a certifying organization. The organic certification process is designed to assure customers that the organic products they purchase have been produced using appropriate organic practices, with records that allow traceability.

Conventional Methods: Refers to typical, widespread farming practices that may use synthetically produced fertilizer and pesticides. This doesn't mean conventional farmers are not concerned about the health and environmental considerations of using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Many have adopted sustainable growing methods, such as beneficial insects, cover cropping and reduced chemical usage.

Organic, Not Certified (Chemical-free): All products sold as "organic" must be certified. Certification includes annual submission of an organic system plan and inspection of farm fields and processing facilities to verify that organic practices and record keeping are being followed. Certification is carried out by organizations accredited by the USDA. Organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, genetically modified crops, growth hormones, or antibiotics. Organic meat and poultry can be fed only organically-grown feed.

Note: Some farmers adhere to accepted organic practices but are not certified. Possible reasons for not pursuing certification include the cost, time, or paperwork involved in certification. Under USDA law, farmers cannot call their produce organic unless they are certified.

Artisan/Artisanal: The terms "artisan" and "artisanal" imply that products are made by hand in small batches.

Farm Fresh: This phrase is a marketing term used in retail and direct farm sales. In general it means that the product is being purchased directly from a farm. If freshness is a concern, ask when the produce was harvested or the eggs collected.

Farmstead cheese: Farmstead cheeses are made by the same people who keep the animals that produce the milk. In other words, they are cheeses "from the farm."

Free-range: Free range (or free roaming) implies that a meat or poultry product comes from an animal that was raised out of confinement or was free to roam. Its use on beef is unregulated and there is no standard definition of this term. USDA requires that poultry have access to the outdoors but for an undetermined period each day. "Free range" claims on eggs are not regulated.

Grass-Fed and Pasture-Fed:
The diet of grass-fed animals consists of freshly grazed pasture during the growing season and stored grasses (hay or grass silage) during the winter months or drought conditions. Grass feeding is used with cattle, sheep, goats, and bison. (Other terms for “grass-fed" products include "pasture-raised," "pasture-finished," and "grass-finished.")

Heirloom crop varieties, also called farmers' varieties or traditional varieties, have been developed by farmers through years of cultivation, selection, and seed saving, and passed down through generations. Check out more about heirloom crops, click here.

Locally Grown:
Food grown near the point of its consumption. There is no standard definition for “local” when it comes to food – a particular definition of “local” might be based upon county, state, region, watershed, or another boundary.

Ideally, food or food products that have been minimally processed and remain as close as possible to their whole, original state. However, no standard definition of this term exists except when applied to meat and poultry products. The USDA defines “natural” meat as free from artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients, but the claim does not have to be verified.

No antibiotics: Antibiotics are given to animals such as cows, hogs and chickens in order to prevent diseases that run rampant in the cramped conditions in which many food animals are kept. When a ranch or product professes "no antibiotics," this means that they do not engage in these practices.

No hormones: Hormones are commonly used in commercial farming to increase the growth rate of beef cattle, increase the production of milk in dairy cattle, etc. Some of these hormones are natural, some are synthetic, and some are genetically engineered.

No-spray/Pesticide-free: Indicates that there are no sprays applied to the produce. This does not indicate what farming methods a farmer uses or that the produce is free of pesticide residue.

Transitional: Farmers need to practice organic methods for three years on a given piece of land before the products grown there can be certified organic. "Transitional" means that the farmland is in the midst of that transition period towards organic certification.

These terms are applied to fruit that has been allowed to ripen on the vine or tree. Many fruits that are shipped long distances are picked while still unripe and firm, and then sometimes treated with ethylene gas to "ripen" and soften them.

The State of Ohio just recently broadened the state's definition of Artisan Foods or Cottage Foods:

▪ Non-potentially hazardous bakery products
▪ Jams
▪ Jellies
▪ Candy
▪ Fruit butters
▪ Granola, granola bars, granola bars dipped in candy
▪ Popcorn, flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn
▪ Unfilled, baked donuts
▪ Waffle cones
▪ Pizzelles
▪ Dry cereal and nut snack mixes with seasonings
▪ Roasted coffee, whole beans or ground
▪ Dry baking mixes in a jar, including cookie mix in a jar
▪ Dry herbs and herb blends
▪ Dry seasoning blends
▪ Dry tea blends

Our farmers' sell only what they raise and our food artisans sell only what they make. We are Ohio Proud. Your favorite farmers' market vendor will be happy to answer any questions you have -- just ask!

Ann Arbor Farmers' Market
USDA National Organic Program
USDA Farmers' Market Coalition
Marin Farmers' Market
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)
Ohio Department of Agriculture: Ohio Proud

Cottage Foods: Ohio Revised Code: Section 3715.025 (B) Chapter 901:3-20-01 ­Criteria and definitions for cottage food operations

Vendor scales are certified on-site by Franklin County the first week of each market season.

Photo image: Watermelon starters from Carousel Watergarden Farm at the Uptown Westerville Farmers' Market by Linda Foor. ©2009 Brickstreet Communications. All rights reserved.

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