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Farmers’ Markets 6/12/14  06/11/14 8:08:29 PM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

The Farmers Market at Aksarben is one of several that now operate throughout the growing season in Omaha.
Farmers’ Markets Help Feed Public’s
Growing Desire for Organic Products

By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record

In late 2011, the Organic Trade Association released its U.S. Families’ Organics and Beliefs Study, which demonstrated that when given the option, consumers were increasingly choosing organic produce. In fact, they found that four in 10 families said that they were buying more organic products than they had the previous year. Nearly half of those surveyed said that the reasons they bought organic was that they thought it was the healthier option.
Nicole Keeley, a mother of five from Wyoming, concurs. “I buy organic, because I don’t like the idea of pesticides in my food. I try to buy as many fruits and veggies as I can, but Laramie is very limited. I order online from www.azurestandard.com, which is a bulk buying group out of Oregon. They do monthly drops to locations all over the U.S.
“I also shop farmers’ markets. It tastes better from a farmers’ market, I feel; it is so fresh, and it didn’t travel 2,000 miles to get to me. I feel that until there is transparency in what is in our food, I will do all I can to support organic food makers.”
Mary Teel, who lives in Virginia, had similar feelings. “I try to buy organic food when I can, usually at Whole Foods or Trader Joes. I like to buy meats and fish that I have been told are not being fed anything they would not naturally eat. But, it is terribly expensive. I just like to think that the organic food is better for me in terms of it not having antibiotics or being fed GMO grains.
“As far as farmers’ markets are concerned, I like going because I know I am supporting local vendors. I have no way of knowing, without asking, whether or not they use pesticides, but I can only hope when I do ask, they are being truthful … I feel better when I eat organic and fresh food.”
The organic buying trend has also been gaining ground in Omaha, confirmed Wendy Bredensteiner, project coordinator at Vic Gutman & Associates, which manages the Omaha Farmers Markets.
“There certainly has been an uptick in customers looking for organic produce. I received a call just last week from a woman who wanted to know which of our farmers are selling as organic. We do have five vendors that have, at least, some produce that is certified organic. Many of our vendors use organic practices, but aren’t ‘certified organic’ as that is a lengthy process. That is the great thing about buying from a farmers market, though. You can talk to the growers and ask them about their methods.  Maybe they aren’t ‘certified,’ but their practices will be sufficient to pass for those actively seeking organic, or may just be a pleasant bonus for those who are less concerned.
“The Omaha Farmers Market is a green market, meaning our main goal is to make fresh, local produce and food available to the Metro area,” she continued. “While we love organic farmers, and would be glad to have them on board, we don’t actively seek them out. We want as much produce and locally made food available to the public as possible, and while some people are really concerned about buying organic, many people are content with organic practices and some simply just want local food.”
To make decisions easier for the consumer, the Omaha Farmers Market website (omahafarmersmarket.com) lists all of its vendors by category. It further subdivides produce growers into organic and CSA or “Community Supported Agriculture.”
In the organic category are Crooked Creek Venture from Lake View, Iowa; GreenLeaf Farms (also listed as CSA), Shadowbrook Farm of Lincoln (also listed as CSA), Von Weihe Family Produce (also CSA), Iowana Farm from Crescent, Iowa (also CSA); and Meristem Farm & Nursery from Papillion.
Those listed in the CSA category are It’s All About Bees from Ralston; L&L Jacobsen Farm of Marquette, Neb.; Wenninghoff, Inc.; and Chisholm Family Farm of Unadilla, Neb.
Laura Chisholm, who operates the farm with her husband, Andy, and their five children, explained that even though they follow the standards and principles of organic farming, they can’t call themselves “organic,” because they haven’t gone through the certification process.
“It’s too cost prohibitive for us at this point,” she said. “It is a goal of ours for the not-so-distant future. All of the feed and hay that we use is certified organic, though, as well as locally grown and custom ground and mixed for us in small batches, so that what we feed is fresh. We do not use chemical fertilizers nor do we use pesticides on our farm. We don’t use antibiotics unless it would be a last resort to save an animal. The vitamins and supplements that we offer our animals are all organic approved, and we keep a buffer pasture between ourselves and our conventionally farming neighbors.”  
Chisholm Farm, which operates on 160 acres, sells pastured pork, pastured chickens and turkeys, soy-free fertile and pastured eggs, grass-fed and finished beef; as well as non-homogenized milk – “it preserves more of the minerals; the fats remain intact” – and, new this year, cheese and yogurt. “We built our own micro-creamery,” she said. “Our Jersey cows produce rich milk, and we bring it to the Farmers Market. It’s healthier for consumers. We also have a wide variety of cheeses: Feta-style, Brie-style, a Neufchatel-style, and hard cheeses.” Customers can also go to their farm and buy products offered by the Chisholms. (For more about their farm, go to http://www.chisholmfamilyfarm.com.)
Aside from the fact that being certified organic is costly, Chisholm said there is another reason that they are Certified Naturally Grown: “Organic standards have changed over the years. In my opinion, they have gotten less strict. Certified Naturally Grown is a grassroots movement that adheres to the original standards.”
On the non-profit organization’s web site, www.naturallygrown.org, it is explained that Certified Naturally Grown offers certification tailored for small-scale, direct-market farmers and beekeepers, using natural methods.
“Our certification model encourages collaboration, transparency, and community involvement. Our programs are based on the highest ideals of organic farming. … CNG producers don’t use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or GMO seeds just like organic farmers.”
So what does it mean when a product is labeled “organic”?

Brian T. McKernan, an attorney at McGrath North, who practices in the areas of food and dietary supplement law explained that “organic products have strict production and labeling requirements that impact how products must be produced from farming through production/sale to the public. There are different types of organic labels available to producers wishing to avail themselves to an organic designation, specifically, one may attempt to qualify the product as ‘100 percent organic,’ ‘organic,’ or ‘made with organic.’
“‘100 percent organic’ products must meet the following requirements to obtain the USDA 100 percent Organic Seal: (a) all ingredients must be certified organic (zero non-organic ingredients are allowed in the product); (b) any processing aids are utilized during the production of the product, those aids must also be 100 percent USDA certified organic; and (c) the product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the informational panel.”
He continued, “In addition, one may also choose to utilize the ‘organic’ label. Products wishing to utilize this label must meet the following requirements:  (a) all agricultural ingredients must be certified organic, except where specified on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List); (b) non-organic ingredients allowed under the National List may be used, up to a combined total of five percent of non-organic content; and (c) product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the informational panel.”
“Finally, one may also choose to utilize the ‘made with organic’ label. Products that utilize this label must meet the following requirements: (a) at least 70 percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients; (b) any remaining agricultural products need not be required to be organically produced but must be produced without excluded methods (i.e., genetic engineering, ionizing radiation or sewage sludge); (c) non-agricultural products must be specifically allowed on the National List; and (d) product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel.”
McKernan said that he, too, has seen an increase of interest in and awareness of organic farming/production of organic products, particularly among consumers.
“This is a market that is expanding in terms of sales and interest, and the consumers in the market seem to be very passionate about the products for themselves and their children. These consumers have shown a willingness to pay higher prices to obtain organic products and producers of all sizes are therefore taking notice. Having said that, I have not seen many conversions from non-organic farms to organic farms at this point. I think the trend towards awareness as to this category of products and transparency with these products will continue to rise.
“As for regulation, many states are continually attempting to adopt guidelines in addition to those set at the federal level. As can be expected, many food processors seem to favor a uniform federal regulatory system to limit inconsistencies and/or different layers of costs in different jurisdictions. These battles are currently being played out around the country legislatively and the landscape is far from settled.”
On May 15, McGrath North hosted the 2014 Agribusiness and Food Conference, which was designed to address a variety of topics, including one called Natural, Organic & Labeling: Surviving Today’s Food Jungle. It was held at the La Vista Conference Center. McGrath North is located in the First Natural Tower, Suite 3700, 1601 Dodge St. For more information about the firm, go to www.mcgrathnorth.com.
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