The four types of farming include conventional, organic, regenerative and biodynamic.

Conventional Farming

Conventional farming uses synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and monocultures are common in these farming systems. This type of farming is geared towards maximizing the yield of a single crop while decreasing costs. Unfortunately, this approach often results in an imbalance of soil health, fewer beneficial insects, and higher levels of toxins in the food and the environment.

Many people are concerned about the potential for toxic residues on food produced through conventional farming methods. Pesticides and fertilizers used in these systems can indeed leave residues on crops, which then make their way onto our plates. Regular consumption of such food can lead to a buildup of these toxins in the human body, potentially leading to a range of health issues.

A recent investigation by Consumer Reports reveals that an astonishing amount of fresh produce sold in the United States contains pesticide residues, even after washing. The report, entitled “Pesticides in Produce,” underscores the widespread use of various pesticides in conventional farming and the potential health risks associated with their consumption. It’s a compelling reminder of the importance of considering the farming practices of the food we eat, and how choosing organic and sustainable methods can contribute to our health and the planet’s well-being.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are another controversial topic in the world of food and farming. Genetic modification involves altering the DNA of crops in a way that makes them more resistant to pests, diseases, environmental conditions, and the pesticides, herbicides and insecticides used in conventional farming.

Organic Farming

Organic farming is focused on maintaining an ecological balance and uses natural fertilizers and pest control methods to promote healthy soil, insects, and other wildlife. This type of farming helps create healthier ecosystems that are not dependent on synthetic inputs. Organic crops are also GMO-free.

However, there are risks to the organic sector in Canada from GMO crops and Gene Editing. The primary threat is from ‘gene flow’ or cross-contamination, where GMOs can cross-pollinate with organically grown crops, jeopardizing their organic status. Such inadvertent mixing of GM crops with organic ones can potentially lead to significant economic losses for organic farmers, as the premium price for organic products is based on a guarantee of GMO-free status.

Another concern is that the widespread use of GMOs and gene-edited crops might lead to an increase in pesticide-resistant weeds and pests, indirectly affecting organic farmers who rely on natural pest control methods. Furthermore, the potential health risks and consequences of consuming GMO’s are not yet fully understood.

The lack of regulations and clear labeling requirements for GMO and gene edited foods can also make it difficult for consumers to know what they are buying. In Canada, there is no legal requirement to label products that contain GMOs or gene-edited material, leaving shoppers in the dark about their food’s origins and composition. Increased transparency, stringent regulations, and robust testing procedures are critical to ensuring the integrity of the organic sector amidst the advancement of these new agricultural technologies.

Regenerative and Biodynamic Farming

Regenerative and biodynamic farming are two more approaches that focus on sustainable agriculture and preserving ecological balance.

Regenerative farming takes organic one step further. It works to restore ecosystems by building soil fertility and sequestering carbon, thus improving water retention and reducing erosion. This type of farming also encourages biodiversity, and greater integration of animals into the system. Some of the main practices that characterize regenerative farming include cover cropping, no-tillage methods, composting, and mulching. Together, these practices help to increase soil health and store more carbon in the ground than conventional monocultures.

Biodynamic farming is similar to organic farming, but with more of a spiritual emphasis. It is based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner and seeks to create holistic farms that are able to sustain themselves in an ecological balance. This type of farming uses natural inputs such as plant-based preparations and minerals to maintain the soil’s fertility and encourage healthy crop growth.

Several countries around the globe are venturing into regenerative and biodynamic farming. The United States is a front-runner in this regard with multiple farms employing these sustainable practices. California, Vermont, and Minnesota are known for their pioneering role in promoting regenerative farming, boasting a number of farms that follow these practices. Other countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Germany are also exploring these farming methods.

In Canada, the province of Ontario is taking the lead in integrating regenerative agricultural practices. Numerous farms and institutions like The Savory Institute and Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO) are exploring regenerative practices to build soil health, sequester carbon, increase crop yields, and preserve biodiversity.

British Columbia also has a robust organic farming sector and has been increasingly exploring regenerative farming. The Kootenay & Boundary Farm Advisors (KBFA) is a notable example of an organization that supports regenerative farming practices. They provide free technical extension services, such as soil testing and pasture management advice, to farmers in the region. The KBFA works closely with farmers helping them to adopt sustainable and regenerative farming practices.

Food from regenerative farms can be found both in stores and farmers’ markets. However, they are more commonly found in farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, where consumers can often directly engage with the farmers. These platforms offer a more transparent and personal connection between consumers and the origin of their food.

Certain progressive grocery stores and natural food retailers are also beginning to carry regenerative products as consumers become more aware and demand increases. For meat and dairy products, consumers can look for farms that sell directly to the public, or they can look for labels that indicate the product is grass-fed or pasture-raised and certified organic.

Regenerative farming has a much lower carbon footprint than conventional farming since it works to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. This helps reduce our contribution to climate change while also providing a healthier food system.

Choosing food from regenerative and organic farmers not only helps keep our planet healthy but it also provides us with nutrient-dense foods that are free from toxins.

MCLEAN is proud to support organic farmers and offer a wide selection of certified organic deli meats, for you and the ones you love.

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