The Art & Language of Local Food

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The Art & Language of Local Food is a glossary of local food and sustainable agriculture terms. 

FARMING TERMS

 

Certified Naturally Grown: Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) products are certified by an independent nonprofit organization through peer-to-peer inspection networks. CNG standards approximate national organic standards, yet require less paperwork and have lower certification fees than the USDA’s National Organic Program.

Certified Organic: All products sold as “organic” must meet the USDA National Organic Program production and handling standards. Certification is mandatory for farmers selling more than $5,000 of organic products per year, and includes annual submission of an organic system plan and inspection of farm fields and/or processing facilities to verify that organic practices and record keeping are being followed.

Conventional: Refers to standard farming practices in the agricultural industry. Can (but does not necessarily) include use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and other chemical approaches.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): GMOs are plants or animals whose genetic make-up has been altered by the addition of genes from another organism. The process is done to promote more desirable traits, like longer shelf-life or resistance to certain pests. Genes can be transferred between similar organisms (plant to plant) or between different types of organisms. An example is the gene from a bacteria (Bt) that was transferred into crop plants.

Heirloom: Heirloom crop varieties, also called traditional varieties, have been developed by farmers through years of cultivation, selection, and seed saving, and passed down through generations. Generally speaking, heirlooms are varieties that have been in existence for a minimum of fifty years.

Locally-Grown: Food and other agricultural products that are produced, processed, and sold within a certain region, whether defined by distance, state border, or regional boundaries. The US Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 says the total distance that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” is less than 400 miles from its origin, or within the State in which it is produced. However, it is not regulated and each farmers market or retail outlet can define and regulate the term based on their own mission and circumstances.

No Spray/Pesticide-Free: While a farm may not be organic, “no spray” or “pesticide-free” indicates that no pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides have been applied to the crop at any point in its production.

No-Till: A method of reducing soil erosion by planting crops without tilling the soil. This is beneficial to soil organic matter levels, requires less passes over the field and doesn’t disturb deeply buried weed seeds. However, it will usually result in increased need for weed management of existing weeds.

Small Farm: In 1997, the National Commission on Small Farms defined small farms as those with less than $250,000 in gross receipts annually on which day-to-day labor and management are provided by the farmer and/or the farm family that owns the production, or owns or leases the productive assets. However, at that level of gross sales more than 70% of farms in Idaho are classified as small. A more appropriate concept might be those grossing under $50,000 and that is also arbitrary. Looking at small by acreage is even less meaningful. It will depend on the agricultural product; 150 acres under vegetable production would seem a large farm where it might not be large for raising pasture-based animals.

Sustainable Agriculture: Farming that is socially just, humane, economically viable, and environmentally sound. Practices that promote diversity, build healthy soils, protect riparian waterways, recycle on farm inputs and bring farmers the opportunity to set their own prices promote sustainability.

MARKETING TERMS

 

Direct Marketing: Sales from a farmer/producer direct to the consumer. Farmers sell direct to consumers at the Farmers Market, food stands, U-Pick operations, through CSAs and on-line markets.

Intermediated Markets: Farmers also sell direct to restaurants and coops/ grocery stores or through a farmer-owned, regional food distribution cooperative. These are often called intermediated markets or referred to as semi-direct sales because they is still one layer away from consumer or end-buyer.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Community Supported Agriculture is when customers pay farmers up front for a share of the harvest. They then receive a bag or box of produce and other farm products on a weekly basis throughout the growing season. CSAs vary on number of weeks, price, variety of products and delivery method. Some include work on the farm in exchange for food.

Wholesale: Lower prices are offered through a distributor for potentially larger quantities or on an ongoing basis, such as for restaurants, institutions or stores before products reach the end-user.

 

OTHER FOOD TERMS

Food Access: Consumer choices are likely to be influenced by the accessibility and affordability of food retailers, travel time to shopping, availability of healthy foods, and food prices.  Price of food can be a barrier for low-income families. 

Food Aggregation/Distribution: The process of gathering local/regional food from farmers at a specific site and then trucking the food to buyers such as restaurants, grocery outlets, institutions, etc. See Food Hub.

Food Hub: A centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products. Can also be coordinated through the internet.

Food Security: USDA’s definition of food security is, “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.”  Food security comprises several different components, including food access, distribution of food, the stability of the food supply, and the use of food. May be discussed in number of days of food supply.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Food stamps were renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP in 2008. A growing number of farmers markets are equipped with the technology to accept SNAP benefits through Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). The EBT system authorizes the transfer of government SNAP benefits from a federal account to a retailer account to pay for fresh foods.

Women, Infants, and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP): The Women, Infants, and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides coupons to eligible low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and/or caring for children up to five years old who are found to be at nutritional risk. Coupons are used to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs at farmers markets. Funding for the WIC FMNP is provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to states, U.S. territories, and federally-recognized Indian tribal governments. ( Currently available in WA, not ID.)


Note to Reader: This is not an exhaustive list of terms, merely some selected definitions that might be helpful to understanding local food and farming concepts.