On The "Organic" Label


The last we heard, it is still the USDA's stance that foods certified "Organic" are no more nutritious than foods not certified "Organic".  It's actually against the rules to claim that food certified as "Organic" has superior or more nutritional content than other foods.

We always use the quotes around organic (i.e. "Organic") to indicate that we're referring to the certification programs established by the government (USDA) because it actually means something different than the traditional meaning of organic, which, significantly, has to do with carbon (check Mr. Webster's definition!).

- Neither "Organic" (a branding controlled by the USDA) foods nor even true organically grown foods are guaranteed to be more nutritious than other foods
- Certified "Organic" foods are also not guaranteed to be free from pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals.  "Organic" on a label simply indicates certification of compliance with the rules of an licensed third-party certifier which has discretion on which USDA approved chemicals can be used in food production.
- It may be that the USDA and commercial food producers don't want you to know how far the nutritional content has been depleted from all foods, whether certified "Organic" or conventionally grown.

So we know the words we use are important.  Let's not forget that the intended meanings of the words used are often more important.

And "Organic" does not necessarily mean more nutritious.  And nutrient-density is profoundly more important than "Organic" being on a label 

Can We Make Two Goals One?


Conventional agriculture has taken a tack that we don't think is very wise.  To focus solely, or even primarily, on quantity - specifically crop yield - raises some questions.

- Are we even thinking about food crop quality?
- Have we lost, or are we losing, the ability to grow nutrient-dense (or however you measure it) good food?
- What is the cost of not appreciating and aiming for nutrient-dense crops?

We think it best to aim for optimizing both crop quality and crop yield, but would place an emphasis on crop quality in terms of nutrient-density.
- Humans and animals eating foods can be sated (fully satisfied) by eating nutritious foods...because once we have our metabolic needs are met, our bodies actually tell us we're done eating.
- If we begin by aiming to grow better quality food ingredients, we can then work on improving yields.  To make more bad products never makes more sense than just making good products...unless you're an unethical business person.

Different Types of Nitrogen?


Yes, there are different types of nitrogen, and understanding the differences can be profound when when it comes to fertility amendments used in farming.

Two primary types of nitrogen present in fertilizer are:
- ammoniacal nitrogen, and
- nitrate nitrogen

The most profound point to be understood about the difference between ammoniacal nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen are the effects they have on plant growth and reproduction:
1) Nitrate nitrogens promote growth of plant tissue in plants
2) Ammoniacal nitrogens encourage crop fruiting

So by knowing which type of nitrogen you're applying to a crop, you can have an effect on crop production.  For example, by simply adding a very, very, small amount of household ammonia to water ("aqua ammonia" or "aqueous ammonia") and applying it as a foliar spray on a crop's leaves, you can promote fruiting.

The effects the two types have on plants is interesting when you consider that nitrogen when oxygen is also present - or "nitrogen in an oxidized state" - becomes nitrate.  In an anaerobic environment (where oxygen is not present), nitrate becomes ammonia.  So plant growth is induced when nitrogen can "breathe" oxygen, and crop production comes when less oxygen is there for the nitrogen.

We'll try to post more on this topic in the future, especially regarding how to make this more practical.

Two quick suggestions:
- if you do add one type of nitrogen, it's almost always wise to add a small amount of the other...so things don't get "out of whack"
- it's always safest to start small, again to keep soil fertility from getting out of balance.  Two or three small doses gives you more control.

Nutrient Dense Foods / Bionutrient Meter


One of the things we want to learn more about on the farm is how to improve or increase the nutrient-density of the foods we grow.

We all want to eat the right foods, but the quality of the food available to us is probably not as good for us as food grown twenty or fifty years ago.

If you've peeled an apple, like we have, and it tastes like a potato, then the apple isn't as good for you as one that taste like an apple.

We sometimes use a refractometer on the farm to test the sugar content of the produce or crops we grow.  By squeezing the sap (juice) from two apples and measuring the brix content of the sap in each one, you can compare the amount of fructose (fruit sugar) in the apples, and you can select the best one.  A higher sugar content indicates that an apple is more nutritious.

Another tool for measuring food crop quality is the Bionutrient Meter.  The manufacturer of the Bionutrient Meter claims it measures the antioxidant and polyphenol content of crops.  We haven't purchased a Bionutrient Meter, but we are following the technology to see if how useful and valuable it will be.