In May 2019 my family and I went to Hawaii. One of our favorite highlights was touring an organic farm in the upcountry of Maui called O'o Farm.
O'o farm practices farm to table and shows how they do it by providing tours of their sustainable agriculture practices and then cook up a delicious meal with farm fresh food for you to enjoy on the property up in the clouds on the mountains! You truly couldn't get any closer to the farm to table practice than this!
They offer two tours: a breakfast and coffee tour and a lunch and farm tour. We decided to take the lunch and farm tour and loved it! So, I thought I'd share some fun facts we learned about how they farm in harmony with nature.
Let's Take a Tour of the Farm!
We started the tour talking about how coffee beans are grown. Surprising fact: coffee beans are actually seeds because they come from a fruit - the coffee cherry! Cherries are green when they are unripe and red when ready for harvesting. The cherries are sweet and resemble a grape. Two beans are in each coffee cherry. Although, sometimes you find one with only one bean! The flower of the coffee plant is edible and has a sweet, floral taste - similar to honeysuckle. They also showed us the process of roasting the coffee beans. On the wall they have a huge recipe board with time and temperatures for various roasts.
Next up, we met the culinary chef in front of their outdoor wood burning oven, who described what he was planning on preparing us for lunch. The menu is created the day of with what is available on the land for harvest. He described lunch in the most appetizing and thoughtful way that had everyone ready to skip the tour and go straight to lunch!
But first, we had to go pick the greens to go in our salad for lunch! So we walked through the rows of crops and picked kale, arugula and greens I had never heard of before but had incredible taste! We definitely didn't pick any iceberg lettuce haha! My favorite thing from this tour was taste testing flowers! I couldn't believe how pungent some of these flowers were - like a punch of spicy hot flavor!
Sustainable Farming Practices
While we picked the fixings for our salad, we learned about how they farm bio-dynamically. One of the ways is by using herbs to repel insects. Huge rosemary bushes sat on the parameters of rows of crops. When they rosemary dies off they take it to their outdoor wood burning oven.....talk about creative deliciousness!
After harvest and as the next crops are just budding from the ground, they sometimes cover the rows with a tarp to kill them but fertilize the soil for new growth!
Organic vs Conventional Farming
Another interesting fact: organic farmers do use fertilizers; it's just organic fertilizer. I know there is a huge debate on organic farming vs conventional farming. Honestly, this is an area I want to learn more about myself. But the bottom line is this: According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and veggies a day. Honestly, that statistic amazes me! Many of us need to eat more produce, and the fear-based marketing that comes with unregulated labels like "natural" can confuse consumers. Just become something says it's "natural" doesn't mean it's healthier for you. Often times, those products are loaded with sugar and other additives. In the same way, companies are now making processed products organic too. For example, pop tarts now make organic pop tarts......giant eye roll. They're trying to market to people that eating an organic pop tart will in some way be "healthier." When in fact, a pop tart is a pop tart.....breakfast dessert. And there's nothing wrong with having them every now and then. Sometimes I have last night's dessert like brownies or cookies with my breakfast because why not? Life short, have some breakfast dessert from time to time. But please don't fall for ridiculous marketing that makes you think a sugar-coated pastry is a nutrient dense option.
Personally, I buy conventional produce because at this point in my life, the cheaper option is what works in my budget to get fruits and veggies into my diet. Some people buy organic for other reasons not spoken about as much such as the treatment of workers, land and animals. I might buy more organic when 1) I have more money to afford it 2) Research brands I would like to support that I know treat their employees, animals and land well. Another thing to keep in mind: there is still pesticide residue on organic produce, which means we should wash conventional AND organic produce before eating. You don't have to buy fancy produce sprays; just mix equal parts vinegar and water and voila! You got your own produce spray!
So, if you feel conflicted on buying organic or conventional produce, know there is nothing wrong with eating conventional. Our culture has become so obsessed with food; we often think it's the only determinant to our health. When in fact, there are so many other factors like stress, physical activity and so on. The nutritional benefits of eating conventional fruits and veggies far outweigh not consuming enough fruits and veggies.
I hope this article helps you feel more informed on organic vs conventional farming. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. You can have a well-balanced diet eating only organic or conventional. If you want to learn more this topic, check out this article, which interviews top researchers on both sides of the conversation. I'll share the more I learn about agriculture and farming practices, so don't forget to subscribe for updated posts!