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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stop the Confusion: Are Non-GMO Products Organic or Not?

Identifying natural healthy products can be easy if you understand a few label basics.

Trying to shop for healthy food becomes difficult, when terms such as 'non-GMO' (genetically modified organism) and 'organic' are used on labels to describe the package contents.

The term 'genetically modified' means the DNA of one plant has been modified to cause that plant to display some sort of characteristic that is not normally associated with it. Often the DNA of a totally different species is added to the plant, at a molecular level, to achieve a certain result, like hardiness, or resistance to pesticides or temperature extremes.

An example of that would be a soybean plant that is having trouble growing in an environment where a farmer feels the need to use a chemical herbicides to control weeds. It may be more expensive, and time intensive, to physically remove the weeds, so the farmer decides to spray the crop with a herbicide to kill the weeds more quickly and economically.

The soybean plant would be killed, along with the weeds, if it weren't genetically modified to resist the toxic effects of the chemicals. So, the DNA of an insect, a caterpillar for example, might be added to the DNA of the soybean plant to give it the ability to resist the chemical herbicides.

The term 'organic' means the crop was grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides or other enhancement chemicals.

So, how do you know if the food you are considering is healthy, when the labels seem so confusing?

The question to ask is, "in order for foods to be certified by the USDA as organic, do they have to be GMO free?"

The answer to that question is yes. If the label says 'USDA Organic', then it cannot contain any genetically modified ingredients.

On the other hand, a product that is touted as being non-GMO, does not have to be organic, and is often grown using chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

So, if you want to be safe knowing you are eating both organic and non-GMO food, look for the label that proclaims it is certified organic. Just because the label says it is 'non-GMO', does not mean it is 'organic'.

Of course, on our farm, we do not use chemicals of any kind, nor do we grow anything genetically modified. Our farm produces healthy organic food specifically because we practice permaculture, which allows the biodiversity of the land itself to fertilize the soil, and healthy soil is what naturally prevents pests and other crop destroyers from taking over.

If you'd like to join our community, and know what you are eating for sure, give us a call or send us an email.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How to Grow 6,000 Pounds of Food a Year in Your Backyard

Follow this family's ideas and you too could grow your own food, right in your back yard. At least until some city official decides that your family homestead farm operation is breaking some sort of zoning restriction, and makes you move.

A better alternative, if you can swing it, would be to move to another country where it is less likely that the city or anyone else for that matter is going to bother you.

There is a house in Pasadena, California that’s known as the Urban Homestead. From the street, you might be confused as to why it’s earned such a name or why it’s special among the other homes in the suburb just outside Los Angeles.

But when you take a peek around the back of the home, what you see is a yard in which every inch is filled with fruits, veggies and even a stray chicken or two.

The property, which is less than a tenth of an acre, is owned by the Dervaes family of four. Patriarch Jules developed the backyard farm in 1985 as part of an effort to reclaim ownership of his food.

Since then, Jules and his three children developed the project, and now take care of hundreds of plants, all of which are grown without chemicals or fertilizers.

Image: The Urban Homestead
Image: The Urban Homestead

“It’s a challenge to grow things organically,” Jules told mindbodygreen in an interview. “Sometimes we just have to let nature be, and if the crops are too infested, we’ll just pull out the crop and plant another batch.”

The Dervaes family are vegetarians and get most of their food from their yard. Many residents from L.A. even pop by weekly to buy a box of Urban Homestead produce.

The family also provides workshops and other opportunities to get involved with the project. By doing this, they hope to prove that connecting to nature and growing your own produce isn’t impossible. It doesn’t even have to be hard!

“Whether you live in an apartment, suburb or on 10 acres, our mission is to connect with folks who yearn to take back their food and live a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle,” said Jules. “We can all take small steps that collectively have a big impact.”

And it’s true. You don't need a large plot of land to grow your own food.

If you are passionate about living a clean organic lifestyle, and have decided that it is unlikely to be sustainable in a country where restrictions on urban farming and water catchment are becoming tighter by the day, perhaps a trip to Finca Cazador would be in order.

Here you live on your own land, cultivate your own food in your own garden and live in a secure community of like minded friends for protection.

This story was originally found here

Friday, May 27, 2016

5 Ways to Regenerate Healthy Growing Conditions in Chemically Treated Gardens

How To Breathe Life Back Into Chemically Treated Soil

Soil degradation is a serious problem in the U.S. and other countries.

Mono-farming techniques (planting huge fields of one variety of plant) are destroying the soil and many experts believe that degradation will reach crisis levels by 2050 in America.

Soil is a living thing. It provides plants with the nourishment they need to be healthy, and that translates to the food we eat being healthy and nourishing for our bodies.

Food grown in these huge agri-businesses must necessarily be enhanced with chemical fertilizers in order to grow, because the original biodiversity has been replaced with topsoil which is largely devoid of nutrients and natural minerals.

In addition to that, these unnatural soil conditions invite pests, which then must be controlled by even more chemical herbicides and pesticides, which are taken up by the plants. So, even if those plants are tilled back into the soil where they are grown, it is reasonable to expect them to contain traces of those chemical additives.

So, unhealthy soil becomes, over time, dead soil. And once it is dead, missing its health giving microbes, roots, earthworm casings and other nutrients, it becomes dependent on petro-chemicals and is unable to sustain life without them.

But, the damage can eventually be reversed. It's not easy and it's not quick, but it can be done given enough time and energy.

The process is not quick. It can take several years for the chemicals sprayed on plants and the surrounding soil to be washed through the top layers of soil and into the substrate below. Depending on how much rainfall is received, and how dense the soil is at the different layers, it can take sometimes decades to test negative for all traces of the material.

By following the steps below, it is possible to regenerate enough soil to provide about an inch of usable healthy topsoil in a period of 5 years:

  1. Stop tilling the soil. This prevents soil erosion and also allows soil microbes to thrive.
  2. Plant diverse crops and rotate them
  3. Practice multispecies cover-cropping. While home gardeners can add crop cover like mulch or wood chips, large scale operations can achieve the same results by planting cover crops. The cover crops may be grown before a cash crop, along with a cash crop, or after. But it's the cover crops that provide the carbon that becomes that all-important "armor" on the soil surface. Cover crops also act as insulation, so the soil doesn't get as hot or cold as it would if bare. This allows microbes to thrive longer. In addition, the biological action heats up the soil, which can extend your overall growing season in colder areas. In our sustainable community, we use a combination approach by recycling the weaker plants back into the soil, while simultaneously planting cover crops to add nitrogen and other nutrients.
  4. Maintain living roots in the soil year-round. It’s important to have living plant roots in the soil as long as possible throughout the year. To accomplish this, use cover crops when not growing a cash crop.
  5. Livestock integration and diversification