What Does it Mean? Definitions…

 Here’s a quick guide to some common terminology circulating in the marketplace and beyond:

  • Apiary: An apiary (also known as a bee yard) is a place where beehives of honey bees are kept. Traditionally beekeepers (also known as apiarists) paid land rent in honey for the use of small parcels. Some farmers will provide free apiary sites, because they need pollination, and farmers who need many hives often pay for them to be moved to the crops when they bloom.
  • Artisan Cheese: Artisan cheese is manufactured by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheesemakers. As a result the cheeses are often more complex in taste and variety. Many are aged and ripened to achieve certain aesthetics. This contrasts with the more mild flavors of mass produced cheeses produced in large scale operations, often shipped and sold right away. Part of the artisan cheese making process is aging and ripening of the cheeses to develop flavor and textural characteristics. One type of artisan cheese is known as farmstead cheese, made traditionally with milk from the producer’s own herds of cows, sheep, and goats.
  • CSA:  CSA stands for ‘Community Supported Agriculture’.  Here is the definition according to Wikipedia: “Community-supported agriculture (in Canada, community-shared agriculture) (CSA) is an alternative, locally-based socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme, and also sometimes herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat, as well. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labor in lieu of a portion of subscription costs.”
  • Ethical omnivorism:  is a diet that encourages the consumption of meat that can be traced back to a farm that raises grass-fed, free range, and hormone-free livestock.
  • Farmer’s Market: Consists of individual vendors—mostly farmers—who set up booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, to sell produce, meat products, fruits and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. Farmers markets exist worldwide and reflect their area’s culture and economy. Their size ranges from a few stalls to several city blocks. Farmers markets add value to communities:
    • Farmers/producers sell directly to consumers, minimizing profit loss by circumventing the middleman.
    • Consumers can buy direct from the farmer/producer.
    • Consumers can obtain organic fruits and vegetables from Certified Organic farmers
    • Consumers can enjoy fresh, seasonally-grown food that was produced within a drivable distance from their homes.
    • Local, fresh food is more likely to foster health and prevent illness than heavily processed foods
    • More capital remains in the consumers’ community
  • Free-Range: is a term which outside of the United States denotes a method of farming husbandry where the animals are allowed to roam freely instead of being contained in any manner.   In the United States, USDA regulations apply only to poultry and indicate that the animal has been allowed access to the outside.  The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access to the outside.  The term is used in two senses that do not overlap completely: as a farmer-centric description of husbandry methods, and as a consumer-centric description of them. Farmers practice free range to achieve free-range or humane certification, to reduce feed costs, to produce a higher-quality product, and as a method of raising multiple crops on the same land.  Free range may apply to meat, eggs or dairy farming.  In ranching, free-range livestock are permitted to roam without being fenced in, as opposed to fenced-in pastures. In many of the agriculture-based economies, free-range livestock are quite common.
  • Grass-Fed:  Most cows have a diet that is composed of at least some forage (grass, legumes, or silage). In fact most beef cattle are raised on pasture from birth in the spring until autumn (7 to 9 months).  Then for pasture-fed animals, grass is the forage that composes all or at least the great majority of their diet. Cattle fattened in feedlots are fed small amounts of hay or straw supplemented with grain, soy and other ingredients in order to increase the energy density of the diet. The debate is whether cattle should be raised on diets primarily composed of pasture (grass) or a concentrated diet of grain, soy, corn and other supplements. The issue is often complicated by the political interests and confusion between labels such as “free range”, “organic”, or “natural”. Cattle raised on a primarily forage diet are termed grass-fed or pasture-raised; for example meat or milk may be called grass-fed beef or pasture-raised dairy.  However, the term “pasture-raised” can lead to confusion with the term “free range”, which does not describe exactly what the animals eat. Cattle called “corn-fed,” “grain-fed” or “corn-finished” are typically fattened on corn, soy and other types of feed for several months before slaughter. As a high-starch, high-energy food, corn decreases the time to fatten cattle and increases yield from dairy cattle. Some corn-feed cattle are fattened in concentrated animal feeding operationsm, (CAFOs).  In the United States, most grass-fed cattle are raised for beef production. Dairy cattle may be supplemented with grain to increase the efficiency of production and reduce the area needed to support the energy requirements of the herd.  A growing number of health and environmental proponents in the United States such as the Union of Concerned Scientists advocate raising cattle on pasture and other forage. Complete adoption of farming practices like grass-fed beef production systems would increase the amount of land needed to raise beef but reduce land used to grow soy and corn to feed them.  Antibiotics are routinely added to grain feed as a growth stimulant. Livestock consume 70% of the antibiotics in the United States.   This practice contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA.  In dairy herds, grazed cattle typically have a reduced need for antibiotics relative to grain-fed cattle, simply because the grazed herds are less productive.  A high-energy feedlot diet greatly increases milk output, measured in pounds or kilograms of milk per head per day, but it also increases animal physiological stress, which in turn causes a higher incidence of mastitis and other infectious disease, more frequently requiring antibiotic therapyAntibiotics are used to promote growth and treat sick cattle, yet the cattle would not get sick if they were not fed a corn-based diet that subjects them to diseases caused by the malfunctioning of their rumen.
  • Locally Grown: Eating food grown within a short reasonable distance from your home base location. Local food or the local food movement is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place.” It is part of the concept of  local purchasing and local economies; a preference to buy locally produced goods and services rather than those produced by corporatized institutions.
  • Locavore: A locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. The locavore movement in the United States and elsewhere was spawned as interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness became more prevalent.    This term began circulation around August 2005 in the San Francisco–area when a number of “foodies” launched a website, Locavores.com, after being inspired by the book “Coming Home to Eat” by ecologist Gary Paul Nabham.  The word “locavore” was the word of the year for 2007 in the Oxford American Dictionary.  This word was the creation of Jessica Prentice of the San Francisco Bay Area at the time of World Environment Day, 2005.  It may be rendered “localvore“, depending on regional differences.  More recently, an “invasivore” movement has emerged as a subset of the locavore movement, which encourages the consumption of nonindigenous invasive species with the intent of controlling harmful populations.
  • Macrobiotic diet (or macrobiotics): from “macro” (large) and “bios” (life), is a dietary regimen which involves eating grains as a staple food supplemented with other foodstuffs such as local vegetables, avoiding the use of highly processed or refined foods and most animal products. Macrobiotics also addresses the manner of eating by recommending against overeating and requiring that food be chewed thoroughly before swallowing. Macrobiotics writers present it as a means of combating cancer.
  • Permaculture:  is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems. It is also a form of systems theory. The focus of permaculture is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Permaculture design therefore seeks to minimize waste, human labor, and energy input by building systems with maximal benefits between design elements to achieve a high level of synergy.  Permaculture is in part an attempt to create a renewable system of food production that relies upon minimal amounts of energy.  Traditional pre-industrial agriculture was labor intensive, industrial agriculture is fossil fuel intensive, and permaculture is design and information intensive and attempts to be petrofree.  Permaculture design focuses heavily upon natural patterns.  The core tenets of permaculture are:
  1. Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  2. Care of People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  3. Setting Limits to Population and Consumption: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.
  • Seasonal (Food): Seasonality of food refers to the times of year when a given type food is at its peak, either in terms of harvest or its flavour. This is usually the time when the item is the cheapest and the freshest on the market. The food’s peak time in terms of harvest usually coincides with when its flavour is at its best.
  • Sustainable Farming: Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as “an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term.  Sustainability can be understood as an ecosystem approach to agriculture.  Practices that can cause long-term damage to soil include excessive tillage (leading to erosion) and irrigation without adequate drainage (leading to salinization).  When farmers grow and harvest crops, they remove some of these nutrients from the soil. Without replenishment, land suffers from nutrient depletion and becomes either unusable or suffers from reduced yields. Sustainable agriculture depends on replenishing the soil while minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, such as natural gas (used in converting atmospheric nitrogen into synthetic fertilizer), or mineral ores (e.g., phosphate).
  • Vegan: Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) eliminate them from their diet only. Another form, environmental veganism, rejects the use of animal products on the premise that the industrial practice is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.  The term “vegan” was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”; the society also opposed the consumption of eggs. In 1951, the society extended the definition of “veganism” to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals,” and in 1960 H. Jay Dinshah started the American Vegan Society, linking veganism to the Jain concept of ahimsa, the avoidance of violence against living things.

The ‘Organic’ Question:  How do you know the difference between all the terminology and emblems?

  • Certified Naturally Grown:  is a grass roots alternative to organic certification.  Certified Naturally Grown is a non-profit alternate farm assurance certification program created for small-scale organic farmers, and striving to strengthen the organic movement by preserving high organic standards and removing financial barriers that tend to exclude smaller farms that are selling locally and directly to their customers. The program is operated in the United States by a non-profit corporation, Certified Naturally Grown, Inc, based in Stone Ridge, New York. To be Certified Organic (as opposed to Certified Naturally Grown) in the US, a grower must keep detailed records of planting, cultivation, fertilization, harvest, and storage, and must pay for both organization membership and periodic inspection. This process works well for large-scale commercial growers, but becomes onerous for small mixed-agriculture farms. Since only certified seeds may be used, the varieties available to be grown are limited, and sustainable practices such as seed-saving is not permitted, unless the farmer also applies to be certified as a seed supplier.  Certified Naturally Grown farmers follow the USDA standards of the National Organic Program, but the record keeping and inspection process is tailored to accommodate the needs of small-scale mixed-agriculture farmers, and are not normally permitted to use the word “organic”. Farmers commit to act as inspectors. Farmer-Inspectors are uniquely qualified to observe and note whether their neighbors are sticking to the standards, and are encouraged to provide helpful feedback, which helps foster a sense of community and sharing. Inspection forms are posted on the Internet for anytime public access, and all farms are subject to random pesticide residue testing. All in all, the CNG procedure requires significantly less paperwork, yet arguably results in more transparency and fostering of better farming practices, than the Certified Organic process, which primarily depends on farmer declarations backed by copious paperwork, and which inspects the paperwork rather than the farm.

See ‘Certified Naturally Grown’ emblem below:



  • Certified Organic: Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, [food] processors, retailers and restaurants.  Requirements vary from country to country, and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:
    • no human sewage sludge fertilizer used in cultivation of plants or feed of animals.
    • avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs not on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of biosolids;
    • use of farmland that has been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more);
    • keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail);
    • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;
    • undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers. Organic certification addresses a growing worldwide demand for organic food. It is intended to assure quality and prevent fraud, and to promote commerce. While such certification was not necessary in the early days of the organic movement, when small farmers would sell their produce directly at farmers’ markets, as organics have grown in popularity, more and more consumers are purchasing organic food through traditional channels, such as supermarkets. As such, consumers must rely on third-party regulatory certification.

In the US, federal organic legislation defines three levels of organics. Products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods can be labeled 100% organic“. Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word “organic“. Both of these categories may also display the USDA organic seal. A third category, containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, can be labeled “made with organic ingredients“. In addition, products may also display the logo of the certification body that approved them. Products made with less than 70% organic ingredients can not advertise this information to consumers and can only mention this fact in the product’s ingredient statement. Similar percentages and labels apply in the EU.

To certify a farm, the farmer is typically required to engage in a number of new activities, in addition to normal farming operations:

  • Study the organic standards, which cover in specific detail what is and is not allowed for every aspect of farming, including storage, transport and sale.
  • Compliance — farm facilities and production methods must comply with the standards, which may involve modifying facilities, sourcing and changing suppliers, etc.
  • Documentation — extensive paperwork is required, detailing farm history and current set-up, and usually including results of soil and water tests.
  • Planning — a written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing everything from seed to sale: seed sources, field and crop locations, fertilization and pest control activities, harvest methods, storage locations, etc.
  • Inspection — annual on-farm inspections are required, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral interview.
  • Fee — an annual inspection/certification fee (currently starting at $400–$2,000/year, in the US and Canada, depending on the agency and the size of the operation).
  • Record-keeping — written, day-to-day farming and marketing records, covering all activities, must be available for inspection at any time.

In addition, short-notice or surprise inspections can be made, and specific tests (e.g. soil, water, plant tissue) may be requested.

For first-time farm certification, the soil must meet basic requirements of being free from use of prohibited substances (synthetic chemicals, etc.) for a number of years. A conventional farm must adhere to organic standards for this period, often two to three years. This is known as being in transition. Transitional crops are not considered fully organic.

Certification for operations other than farms follows a similar process. The focus is on the quality of ingredients and other inputs, and processing and handling conditions. A transport company would be required to detail the use and maintenance of its vehicles, storage facilities, containers, and so forth. A restaurant would have its premises inspected and its suppliers verified as certified organic.

Also in the U.S., the ‘National Organic Program’ (NOP) was enacted as federal legislation in October 2002. It restricts the use of the term “organic” to certified organic producers (excepting growers selling under $5,000 a year, who must still comply and submit to a records audit if requested, but do not have to formally apply). Certification is handled by state, non-profit and private agencies that have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

One of the first organizations to carry out organic certification in North America was the ‘California Certified Organic Farmers’, founded in 1973.  See more information on this organization further below.

See below ‘certified organic’ emblem used in the United States:

File:USDA organic seal.svg

See below ‘certified organic’ emblems used in Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, and the European Union.


File:Agriculture biologique-logo.png File:German organic seal.jpgFile:JAS organic seal.pngFile:EU organic farming logo.svg

  • California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF): is a USDA accredited organic certifying agency and trade association located in Santa Cruz, California. CCOF offers organic certification to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards throughout North and South America to farms, livestock operations, processors, private labeler, brokers and retailers. Formed in 1973, CCOF currently has more than 2,000 certified clients, certifies over 1,300 organic crops, products and services, more than 600,000 acres in 29 states and three foreign countries; Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada, and nearly 80% of the organic farmland in California. CCOF also has more than 300 supporting members, individuals and businesses who support the trade association’s activities and the mission of the organization to certify, educate, advocate and promote organic.  See their emblem below.

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