More people in NJ opting for locally grown organic foods
With over 80 registered, certified organic farms and about 4,000 acres of organic farmland in New Jersey, according to the National Agricultural Statistical Survey, organic products have seen quite the boom in demand in recent years.
Organic separates itself by the way it interacts with the ecology of the farm and the surrounding environment, said Devin Cornia, incoming executive director at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey.
Organic farming attempts to mimic nature and natural processes when raising crops. Farmers seek to conserve natural resources on the farmland.
If done properly, organic farming proves to be more resilient in the long run, Cornia said. Farmers fight fewer uphill battles, getting nature to work with them, and then nature begins to work for them if they invest in the health of the nature around them, including the soil, the pollinators, the habitat, and more.
Cornia said Rodale Institute, located in eastern Pennsylvania, leads the way in organic, agriculture research. Over time, organic crops are more resilient, yields are higher, but it takes a few years to really invest in the land, the soil, and the ecosystem before one can reap those benefits.
More and more people are becoming interested and invested in organic products. Cornia said people are much more educated today.
"Organic itself has grown tremendously and the thing that we must care about at NOFA is local organic. There are lots of organic out there, but we want everyone to support their local communities, their local farmers and go to their farmer's market," he added.
When people shop organically, they are making a conscious choice for health to put better foods in their bodies. But it's such a better feeling when you see the local farmer at the farmer's market every weekend, knowing the money is staying invested in that community.
"For me, that's the true meaning of organic. It's in your neighborhood and it's cleaning up your community," Cornia said.
Cornia said most organic farms in New Jersey are cropland so vegetable and fruit crops. There are some dairy organic farms in the state but he said that's more of a northeast and western thing. The second most popular form of using organic land in New Jersey is pasture land. He said that means a lot of hay and livestock.
It's always best for residents to involve themselves in their food community. Cornia said if they want to have a hand in their health, they should get to know where their food is coming from and who is growing it.
"The more that we all take part in the food system, the more that we all demand that our food is clean, organically grown, sustainably harvested in respect to the environment that we live in, we're going to see a better future," Cornia said.
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