Once Upon A Time All Food Was Organic (in Northumberland and Scottish Borders)

Published on 5 Sep
7 min read

Once upon a time, all food was organic and there was no need for such a term. The introduction of agriculture to civilisation was dependent on Mother Nature’s temperament. Our ancestors prayed to Mother Nature to nurture their crops, resulting in a good harvest. In those simple times, there were no artificial substances or intensive methods. However, as time went on, man discovered and invented chemicals and machinery to outwit Mother Nature. Industrialisation became the norm. Nevertheless, there were still those who believed and trusted Mother Nature. Their farming techniques became known as ‘organic’.

What is Organic September?

A spade digging in mud ready to plant.
Dig for Victory: Organic soil has higher nutrients

Over the last few years, September has become known as Organic Food Month. This annual campaign has been guided by the Soil Association with the aim to reduce the amount of artificial, pesticide-ridden and processed foods we eat and focus on the farms and food producers who dedicate their lives to producing top quality, organic food.

The Soil Association is a charity that has been running since 1946 and was originally set up by those concerned about the quality and welfare of farmland following World War 2. After starting out with one farm, they now certify 70% of all organic food in the UK[1]. Organic produce can be easily recognised by the Soil Association logo.

Organic September encourages small changes to be made with people’s shopping habits, and this does not just include food and drink. Organic products can include household cleaners, toiletries, toys and clothes. The main aim is to encourage people to make one organic change to make a difference.

Organic Food: What’s the Appeal?

A selection of fruit and vegetables including carrots, raspberries and tomatoes
Organic food is beautiful too.

Organic food has been attracting a lot of attention recently. The organic food industry rose by 4% this year[2] in supermarkets but it is the popularity of independent food outlets and home delivery, where £1 in every £7 is spent on organic food[3], that have seen it become a £2bn industry[4]. If you consider recent stories such as the horsemeat scandal and combine them with the rising of veganism, the rise in sales of organic food is not completely surprising. Organic food offers transparency to farming methods; people generally think that no chemicals and better welfare for animals are in turn better for us and the environment. Organic foods offer clean food from farm to table.

Consumers main reasons for buying organic produce are:

  • Environmental purposes – due to the lack of toxic products (herbicides/pesticides/antibiotics) there is a wider range of wildlife and healthier soil.
  • Animals – no hormones/antibiotics which means we’re not ingesting that either!
  • Higher rotation of crops – better for soil in the long run. Cover crops offer differing quantities of nutrients to the soil.
  • Better living conditions for animals – they can roam free on pastures green; eating grass like they’re supposed too.

The modern consumer now feels a certain responsibility in terms of their health, the environment and the Earth’s future. People want to know where their food comes from and to make conscious decisions about where and what they buy. Resulting from the internet’s power and influence, organic purchasing is easier and more convenient. Organic September is the perfect time to celebrate organic produce, as well as our native foods, as we prepare for harvest time and the influx of the country’s favourite foods: potatoes, apples, pears, venison and wild mushrooms.

What does it mean to be Organic?

A line of different coloured carrots from white to orange from purple to yellow.
Diversity of organic produce

Organic food is the product of a farm which avoids the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and additives in livestock feed[5]. It is basically how agriculture used to be before the introduction of intensive farming. Intensive farming is said to have occurred as result of population growth globally. The main reason for intensive farming though is profit, regardless of repercussions on the environment, peoples health or animal welfare. On purchasing organic food you will notice that fruit and vegetables are not always perfectly spherical and there are many imperfections. Worm bites, mud scuffs and an uneven silhouette may seem off-putting – but, that’s what makes it beautiful baby!

In the UK, for a product to be considered ‘organic’, 95% of its ingredients much be of organic origin[6]. It is important that you buy your organic food from trustworthy places.

Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Let Thy Medicine Be Food

Fruit and Vegetables: The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen

The Environmental Working Group has done extensive tests on all vegetables to find out which are most affected by pesticides. They have calculated the levels of residue left on the food even after 3-4 washes[7]. Here is a list of the EWG’s lists of foods that are most affected by pesticides:

The Dirty Dozen[8]

Punnets of strawberries: strawberries are top of the 2018 dirty dozen list of fruit and vegetable contaminated with pesticide residue
Strawberries are top of 2021’s Dirty Dozen list.
  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Kale, collard greens, and mustard greens
  4. Nectarines
  5. Apples
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Peaches
  9. Pears
  10. Bell peppers and hot peppers
  11. Celery
  12. Tomatoes

The Clean 15[9]

An avocado split in half. Shows how thick the skin is and how that helps it to be the top of the Clean 15 list this year.
Avocado’s thick skin help it to be top of the Clean 15 list this year!

The Clean 15 shows fruits and vegetables that you can safely purchase without them necessarily being organic.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Onions
  5. Papaya
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Eggplant
  8. Asparagus
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cabbage
  11. Kiwi
  12. Cauliflower
  13. Mushrooms
  14. Honeydew melon
  15. Cantaloupes

Thin skinned (fruits and vegetables where you eat the skin) are at more risk from pesticide contamination, which is why the EWG’s Dirty Dozen highlights which foods are riddled with chemicals and can’t just be peeled or washed off. As a result of modern conventional farming, minerals in fruits and vegetables have fallen over 75% in a 40 year period[10]. Adding to this, eating seasonally reduces the need for pesticides as food is growing in its natural environment without the need for outside tampering. Seasonal food will also be higher in vitamins and minerals and have an improved taste and flavour! Seasonal food is generally cheaper too.

One of the easiest way to buy and source organic, seasonal fruit and veg is through a local box scheme from producers such as Hexhamshire Organics or G & S Organics. Box schemes and home delivery options from indie retailers and farmers have seen organic sales of up to 10% over the past year[4].

 The Organic Dairy and Organic Meat

A picture of a sheep looking at the camera. Organic lamb and mutton contain more nutrients than its non-organic counterparts.
I taste baa-rilliant if I am organic-raised.

Organic meat and dairy farms go through rigorous testing to be certified organic. Research has shown that vitamins and minerals essential to human health are more common in organic foods. Organic milk typically has about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic varieties[11]. Organic eggs too, are far superior nutritionally, compared to standard eggs. Eggs are best enjoyed fresh to reap the abundant health benefits. Buying eggs from local organic egg producers like Border Eggs is one way to make sure what you’re eating is beneficial to the body and the environment.

A cow and calf who live on a farm.
It’s moo-vallous to be free on pastures green!

In addition to organic milk and organic eggs, organic meat shows considerable differences from conventional meat. Organic meat contains 47% more omega-3 fatty acids, and significantly lower concentrations of the undesirable saturated fat. Organic meat such as beef is typically higher in vitamins and minerals because the cows are pasture-fed. Furthermore, organic meat is farmed without the use of synthetic hormones[11]  and are usually kept humanely. The best way to make sure of this is to find your local organic meat supplier and see their accreditation’s. Look out for accreditation from the Soil Association who comply with Organic Standards set by the European Union Regulation. Farms, such as Peelham Farm, a Pasture-For-Life certified farm, in the Scottish Borders, are a great example of well-kept, organically-farmed meat.

Organic Legacy: Looking To The Future

A selection of salad ingredients such as lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes and avocado. Also bowls of fruit: including berries apple and grapes.
What change will you make this Organic September?

The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful medicine or the slowest form of poison
Ann Wigmore

More people buying organic food means more organic farms. More organic farms mean more animals raised under the highest standards. More animals raised under the highest standards mean a better quality of the product. More quality produce means happier and healthier humans. More happy and healthy humans mean more time taken to appreciate the earth. More appreciation for the earth means a happier planet!

Follow Foodful’s journey during Organic September on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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