Welcome to our Holden's Hide a way farm

Holden's Hide-A-Way Farm is a diversified farm that produces a wide variety of meat product, in much of the same manner as a farmer would have 100 years ago. Our ideas on how to raise livestock come directly from mother nature. We raise grass fed beef and lamb because that is what mother nature intended. Our pigs are free to root and roam through out the warm seasons. Winters are spent in a barn with ample space and lots of hay to eat and root around in. Poultry is raised on pasture where they get lots of fresh air and can do the things poultry likes to do.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Politics, business and Organic Agriculture

Every once in a while organic agriculture hits the news. CBC this week reported on a finding by the CFIA (Canadian food inspection agency) that pesticide residues where found on organic foods. One sided arguments like the one reported are aggravating for farmers like me. While we are not a certified organic farm we use organic farming practices. So we do have a stake in the argument "organic vs Conventional " farming. The big argument is whether organic foods are worth the extra cost. Of coarse conventional farmers and anyone with a stake in conventional agriculture will say, no. This includes most government agencies. The main arguments forwarded by conventional agriculture is that there is no evidence that organic foods are better for you and that organic production can not feed the world.
The first issue is food quality. Can organic foods be proven to have any nutritional benefits over conventional food. Unfortunately there is not a lot of money to be made for big business in organic food production. That is why the only news articles we hear are degrading organic production. The truth is that even the certifying bodies that regulate organic agriculture in Canada allow for a certain amount of pesticide residue on foods. Why is this? It is impossible for a farmer to completely isolate their produce from the environmental hazards that conventional agriculture continually pumps into our environment. Even our forestry agencies pump this stuff into our environment. A certain amount of pesticide residue is going to found even in the ground water that everyone uses, including the organic farmer. What the above news report did not emphasize is that organic foods were found to contain over 75% less residue then conventional produce. These numbers are consistent with last highly publicized and controversial media release "The Stanford Study". So we have clear evidence that the chemical contamination and risk associated with it are substantially lower in organic foods. What conventional agriculture does not want people to know is that there is evidence that organic foods are more nutritious. Organic produce is only slightly higher in content of major vitamins and minerals. This is highly publicized. What isn't highly publicized is secondary nutrients because they are not considered vital to our health like vitamin C & D. Secondary nutrients like polyphenols and flavonoids are difficult and not often measured during these studies. Polyphenols are chemicals that a plant produces in response to environmental stress. A type of plant immune system. (The more a plant is babied the less it has to produce. This is exactly what conventional agriculture does. Utilizing chemicals to feed and protect the plant essentially producing fat and lazy plants.) The nice thing is that these polyphenols also help us. They are the antioxidants we need in our diet. Antioxidants are chemicals that go around our bodies capturing free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for many diseases most famously, cancer. Many scientist also believe that a lack of polyphenols is responsible for the increasing prevalence of our "dirty brain" diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.  Catechin is a polyphenol found in green tea that has even been found to help treat viral hepatitis. Underpublicized studies done in Barcelona included measurements of polyphenols and have found much higher content in organically grown produce. A University of California study concluded a ten year study that found organically grown tomatoes to have significantly higher amounts of flavonoids (polyphenols). In fact they found the longer are farm used organic methods, the bigger the difference. The study found conventional produce polyphenol were 79-97% lower. That is a dramatic decrease considering polyphenols are now being said to have as much or more of an influence on our health than vitamin C or D.
My unscientific evidence and method of comparison is that organic food tastes better and tends to be heavier. Taste is mother natures way of saying "eat this". Flavanoids are accurately named. They are responsible for much of the flavour in our vegetables and fruit. More flavour equals more flavonoids. If you take an organically grown tomato and conventional tomato of equal size, the organic one will be heavier. This is because there is more in it. All the extra nutrients have mass.  
The next argument big agriculture has is that organic production can not feed the world. However anyone in the food industry should know that production is the least of our concerns when is comes to feeding the world. Those starving people seen on Sunday morning TV are the victims of politics more than lack of world food production. We cannot feed the starving because the food will not get there, not because we don't have it. Even in North America we have our own issues of malnourishment and starving people. The fact is we waste enough food to feed our starving people. If you want evidence go check out the garbage bin behind your local restaurant and grocery store. Do you remember your younger days sitting at the kitchen table, your parents saying something like "eat your broccoli, there are starving children that would love to have your food". Eventually the broccoli was thrown out or fed to the dog hiding under the table. 
The third argument is really related to the above in some ways. The price of organic foods. Ask an organic farmer and they will tell you al about the hidden costs of conventional food. It is cheap at the grocery store, but we end up heavily taxed on it. Not so much at the till, but through government money spent. (Not to mention all the government subsidy programs are geared towards conventional agriculture) Conventional agriculture cost huge amounts of money because of environmental issues. Most of which we have not even started paying for yet. Some people don't see that as their issue, but we are spending huge amounts of money on health care as well. Many of the health care issues we have are directly related our food, and our over fed and undernourished citizens. The government recognizes this issue, but too much money is involved in conventional agriculture to make the necessary adjustments.Wold War one marked the beginning of industrial agricultural, coincidentally our public health issues have been on the rise ever since. If as much research went into organic agriculture and conventional agriculture our level of production would be much high. In recent years there has been a lot more effort put into making organic agriculture more competitive. New methods and an increase in demand is slowly bringing the price of organic produce more in line with conventional .
I have concentrated mostly on vegetable production here but something needs to be said about our meat, milk and poultry as well. The public often does not know that there is a difference in "feed grade" grain and grain for human consumption. One difference is that feed grade grain can have up to a 20% higher chemical residue on it. These chemicals are not adequately metabolized by the animals it is fed to. The result is the consumer ingests these toxins resulting in a higher residue level. Many of these residues are disease causing including cancer and the other diseases already mentioned. Combine this with the fact that our vegetables and fruit are lower in the nutrients designed to rid our bodies of disease causing toxins, and you have a recipe for illness. 
While organic certification offers some security, dishonest people can find away to rip off the system. It is a self governing system. However so is the chemical industry that supplies the agricultural industry. No government agency tests these chemicals or the genetically modified organisms used. Instead they rely on "independent" studies, paid for by the chemical companies. So don't believe everything you hear on the news. After all the news is in the business of drama more than fact. The only real way to guarantee you are eating health promoting organic is too grow it your self. Or buy it from a local farmer you can trust. I know a couple if your interested.