Help me buy farmgrown food online
April 18, 2010 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Just watched Food Inc. and have been inspired to be an ethical food consumer. Sure, there is "Organic" food at my local grocery store. Yet it's difficult to be sure that the items brandishing an "organic" label are the real deal.

For example, many "organic" chickens are raised in claustrophobic and unsanitary conditions, much like their non-organic counterparts, but because organic farmers might give their chickens a mere 30 minutes of sunlight a day, they are granted use of the organic label. The problem is that ethically grown food is difficult for me to obtain. The one local Farmers Market in my area (which is about 40 miles away) is only open for 2 hours one day a week, and has a rather scant selection: an assortment of handmade jewelry, candles, juices, maps and a guy who sells pork rinds out of the back of his van.

Also, another option is for me to drive 100 miles + to an actual farm for organic food, but my car is in rather poor shape and I don't have that kind of money for gas. Therefore, does anyone on Metafilter like to buy farm grown food from the internet? If you do, can you list some trustworthy websites? Any other ideas from conscientious consumers? Thanks.
posted by BettyBurnheart to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my experience, most small organic meat farmers sell their meat frozen. If you get a chest freezer, you can make a quarterly (or less frequent) trip to a farmer that you like, pack frozen chickens and whatever other meat in a cooler, and defrost when needed. Chest freezers are great, not that expensive, and pretty efficient.

Or if there are like-minded people in your area, you might be able to pool together and get a farmer to deliver to you. You might also want to check for any restaurants who have a farm-to-table philosophy and see where they get their meat.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:52 AM on April 18, 2010


See community sponsored agriculture. The food comes to you.
posted by JJ86 at 6:58 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might want to post your location. If you're in the US, Local Harvest is a good resource.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:58 AM on April 18, 2010


Organic food is often fertilized with manure from factory farms. There have been some studies showing plants are able to uptake pathogens and toxins from manure.

Organic food is better than nothing, but I'm not particularly happy with the regulations right now.

Thankfully, the interweb to the rescue- Local Harvest is a great one. So is Eat Well Guide. There are CSAs in even fairly isolated areas now.

There is also a meat CSA that ships called Eight O' Clock Ranch. Some of my friends are members and it's a great way to get good grassfed pastured meat.

A lot of people think that these is something special about actually meeting the farmer that only farmer's markets can provide, but I don't agree. You can visit a farm once a year and not subject the poor farmer to getting up at 3 AM to drive 100s of miles to your city. My mom started shopping at the farmer's market and complained that the farmers were "grumpy and mean." Gee, I wonder why?

I think internet buying and private certification agencies are the future. And yes, I'm totally biased because this is kind of my job, but it's also made my life better. I am fairly busy and shopping for healthy food used to take up SO MUCH of my time. Now I just pick up my CSA share, I'm a member of both a produce one and a meat one, and I'm good to go for the week.
posted by melissam at 7:22 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is an argument that, ethically speaking, it's more important to buy local than to buy organic. This is one reason why organic-food websites often sell boutique-y items rather than staples. Another is that shipping gets expensive quick (and, sure, there's some profiteering in there, but it also reflects the true costs of moving perishable items in small quantities).

It would be a lot easier to answer this question if you gave your location, but, generally speaking, it would be good to seek out like-minded locals and benefit from their experience and commitment.
posted by box at 7:23 AM on April 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


You don't say where you live, but a CSA can be a great option. My farmer/supplier hasn't gone through hoops to be "certified" organic, he's Amish, but I know what he uses because he tells me. Teach yourself how to properly freeze veggies and you can go every two weeks and get a good supply. There may even be someone who can deliver to a convenient location, many of the ones in my area arrange for pick-up at the farmer's market.
posted by saffry at 7:24 AM on April 18, 2010


Echoing everything above about locavorism (is that a word? Guess it is now). I'd recommend Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (there is also a website) which is part farm journal, part cookbook, and part primer on our petro-pharma-foodstream.

For a list of CSAs, see this list at localsustainability.net.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:40 AM on April 18, 2010


I totally agree with Emperor SnooKloze! Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, you will get a good idea about how important it is to buy local.

Can you ask your local butcher about the farms their meat comes from? That is what we did and found a local organic farm that treats their animals humanely and Mr. Sadtomato tells me the meat is quite noticeably better (I am vegetarian). Having said that we are in Vancouver and have a with a lot of local, organic, fresh food options all around us.
posted by sadtomato at 8:51 AM on April 18, 2010


If you don't have a CSA conveniently nearby, check with your friends/neighbors to see if they might be interested. If there are enough people in your area to make a delivery worthwhile, a CSA in your general area might be able to accommodate that.
posted by corey flood at 9:37 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Organic" is definitely a very different thing than "humane." In fact where the organic label is applied to animals, I feel it's actually to the animals' detriment. I buy milk from a family-owned local dairy which refuses to seek the organic label, because they feel it's too restrictive regarding the level of medical care they can provide for their cows.

"Organic" is awesome for plants and vegetables and grains and stuff, though.

For me, it was just a long slow process of researching brands at the store, visiting other store chains and branches a little farther out of my way, asking around, talking to people, etc.

For example, before I got chickens, I used to buy Steibr Farm "Sunrise Fresh" brand eggs, which are sold at one particular store in Anacortes (and elsewhere in Western Washington). I noticed them when I happened to visit the Food Pavilion, which I never shop at because the prices are higher. It turns out they're a family operation in Yelm, WA which takes really good care of their chickens.

When I can't find Golden Glen milk I buy Wilcox, which is a network of family farms all of which are certified humane.

If I can't find either and I really need milk, I buy Darigold, which is locally-owned and sources their milk from relatively small local operations. It isn't organic, but Horizon organic milk is shipped across the country from New Hampshire or some such. I feel like the transportation grossly outweighs the organic, footprint-wise.

I can rattle all this information off the top of my head now. But it's the result of 2-3 years of paying attention and doing the research. It's not terribly hard to become an informed consumer, but it can definitely seem overwhelming at times!
posted by ErikaB at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just dropped by to say good for you, and especially to cheer on ErikaB, who is shopping in my part of the country. I concur that local trumps organic, although I do pay pretty close attention to how my local food producers manage their animals and produce.

For ongoing inspiration in your quest to be a (humane) locavore, I recommend the very readable Omnivore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan.
posted by bearwife at 3:01 PM on April 18, 2010


You can search Local Harvest for all things organic. Not least, find a local CSA who can deliver a box of organic produce to your area each week (most of these are subscription programs, where you contribute a fixed amount to get a boxful of produce each week during the growing season). Local Harvest also list suppliers of organic meat and other products in your local area.
You might want to avoid any milk produced by Aurora Dairy (who currently provide a lot of "own brand" organic milk to large stores) and Dean Foods (who sell Horizon). Aurora were sued in 27 States, in 2007, on the grounds that their milk is not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organic Program regulations. A whistleblower at Horizon reported that the cows are never put out to pasture except when an inspector or the media shows up - they spend all their lives in barns, eating dried hay. The Cornucopia Institute (a lobbying group for organic food producers) asked the USDA to investigate the practices of Dean Foods (Horizon) as none of their cows ever appeared to have access to pasture.
posted by Susurration at 3:31 PM on April 18, 2010


In Chicago we have "Irv and Shelley's" and they deliver fron local farns - naybe you have sonething sinilar in your area
posted by xammerboy at 7:01 AM on April 19, 2010


You should also think about the kind of food you're buying. Even if it's not organic or local, fresh produce is better than heavily processed/packaged food, and fruits and vegetables are better than meat. If you can't find an ethical way to buy chicken, consider eating less chicken.
posted by bokinney at 12:38 PM on April 19, 2010


Thanks everyone for your awesome advice! I'm definitely getting the vibe that local trumps organic, and based on your reasons I totally agree. I'm quite horrified by Aurora and Dean, Susurration, I will make a mental note to avoid their products like the swine flu.

During the summertime, near my area, there is an awesome Farmers Market that has just opened up. They sell a plethora of meats, fruits, pastries, and vegetables. So at least for the summer, I am set.

After the summertime I will definitely look into a CSA.

I will also check out all the links and reading materials that you guys have so kindly recommended.

Thanks again. You all have been very helpful.

~ Betty
posted by BettyBurnheart at 3:09 PM on May 9, 2010


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