It is May and many farmers markets are now open. I love farmers markets for many reasons but the main one is locally grown, fresh food. I have supported local farmers for many years. I am a long-standing proponent of local and organic food, however I have always felt a little torn between local and certified organic produce. There are not many local organic farmers in my area. I always felt concerned when I was buying local, “non-organic” produce. Was I compromising the health of my family? All those pesticides, herbicides and fungicides on the produce; they surely must be killing us. I wondered if our Canadian agricultural regulations are strict enough.
This April I decided to put an end to that dilemma and get my answers. A group of us visited Ron VanHart of VanHart All Organic Greenhouses. Mr. VanHart’s farm is located in Holland Landing area, surrounded by conventional farmers. Thirty years ago, the VanHart family stopped using pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and yet he has spoken in favour of his non-organic neighbour farmers. Why?
According Mr. VanHart, conventional farmers, much like himself have been inspected by the Ontario Ministry of Environment. During these unexpected visits, spray records are reviewed and chemical drift is measured. According to Mr. VanHart, Ontario (and Canada) have stricter regulations than our southern U.S. neighbours. Unlike thirty years ago when crops were sprayed every ten days, today’s farmers hire scouts who look for early signs of infestations. Only when needed, will farmers spray their crops and this may be 3-4 times per growing season. When you buy local (or Canadian) produce you have already made the right choice for your family.
Please take a moment to watch this short video (1 min) from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment regarding farm inspections.
What really surprised me was that Mr. VanHart puts locally grown produce ahead of imported organic ones. The certification regulations in the U.S., Central and South America vary considerably. Usage of “organic” pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are allowed under various certifying bodies. However, organic does not mean good for your health. Who is to know what other countries consider acceptable?
Clearly the best choice is local, organic produce. Does it have to be certified organic? No. I invite you instead to use your own judgment as your certification and talk to your local farmers. Better yet, visit the farm that feeds your family.
For more information regarding the use of pesticides in Ontario, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, please click here.
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Set your mind at ease and buy local!