Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Blue Ridge Produce in Elkwood, VA on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Blue Ridge Produce is a local food hub aggregating Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the Capitol region. (L to R Blue Ridge Produce Jim Epstein, Blue Ridge Produce Mark Seale, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
Mark Seale got out of agriculture early. A Virginia native raised on the family farm, he didn’t see a future in the business once he finished high school – and his family didn’t argue with him.
But over the years, Mark found himself drawn back to agriculture in Virginia. Working with produce was something he’d grown up around, and a desire to do something in the industry was tugging at him. He returned to Virginia and opened Simply Fresh Produce, a retail outlet in Charlottesville. That’s where he met Jim Epstein, a real estate developer concerned about the disappearance of Virginia farmland. Jim knew that economically viable farms were the best buffer against development pressure and that smart development could in turn strengthen the local food system. So in 2010, Jim and Mark joined forces to build Blue Ridge Produce, a food hub in the rural community of Elkwood. Read more »
This is the thirteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.
Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities. For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances. Read more »
The ‘Sound and Sensible’ initiative is about removing barriers to certification, and working with farmers, like the one pictured here, to correct small issues before they become larger ones.
This is the twelfth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market. Under the USDA organic rules, organic farmers must demonstrate they are protecting the environment, supporting animal health and welfare, and producing their products without the use of prohibited substances (including synthetic pesticides). Read more »
This is the fifth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
Through defined farming practices, organic principles promote ecological balance, foster the cycling of resources, and conserve biodiversity. To understand what that means when it comes to the label on your food, those principles require some more explanation.
Let’s take a closer look at a snapshot of sustainable food production, using the lifecycle of organic cheddar to get a fuller picture. Read more »