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We are just back from a lovely house swap holiday in Italy, the food there is fantastic. However I felt a bit lost and completely in the unknown, I had no choice but to bury my head in the sand and accept that I would eat the food and not consider too much about it's origins or how it was produced. In particular I would turn a blind eye to what was probably going on inside the polytunnels that were so prolific around the country side.
I really didn't have any choice, organic food wasn't available or I couldn't find it. We bought fruit and veg from road side sellers and they may have grown their produce without chemicals or they may not but I had no way of knowing.
We had a great time and ate some great tasting fresh produce, but it bothered me a little that I didn't really know what I was eating. The tomatoes were fresh and very tasty but many would have come from indoor production (yes even in Italy with all the sun!), and indoor production can mean a heavy reliance on chemicals to treat disease.
But our holidays are not finished and I am back to my usual life. On my return I had received an e-mail from IOFGA (Irish organic and growers association). Some weeks ago they had taken a spot check sample of our new potatoes and analysed them for residual chemicals, and the results were in.
I won't bore you with every detail but what I was delighted to see was that of all the toxic chemicals tested for we were clean or at least our potatoes were.
What shocked me was the number of substances that were on the testing list. These are chemicals many of which are still in use, and some although now banned, will have built up in the soil, especially where there has been intensive conventional production. Some of these chemicals and their derivatives can persist in the environment for a long long time.
The headings of each group had such endearing names as:
Organo-chlorine pesticides 14 different types
Organic-phosporous pesticides 48 different types
Organo-nitrogen pesticides 20 different types
Pyrethoid pesticides 11 different types
Triazine pesticides 10 different types
Post harvest fungicides 3 different types
Dicarboxamide pesticides 3 different types
Miscelleanous pesticides 35 different types
I know that how we produce our food does not include the use or even the mention of any of the above. I do know that any food we import is certified organic and that we as a business and a farm are certified organic.
I also know that I found it very easy to totally forget about organic food when I didn't have the choice (when I was on holiday). I had to accept that what was on the shelf in front of me was good clean healthy produce, but I didn't know that.
In essence my level of awareness of what I was eating was low and my inherent holiday laziness (and lack of a basic understanding of the Italian language) prevented me from trying to find out more.
Luckily we have a whole organic farm here which produces the best combination of food. That is: food that is fresh, healthy, grown for taste, and most importantly clean and safe. I don't have to think about the courgettes or the tomatoes I know where they are from and how they were produced.
I also know that because we have so much great farm produce at the moment and beacuse nearly everything in our seasonal boxes is produced on our own farm the value of these boxes is amazing.
I will leave you with these last numbers
Small veg box €11.50 contains over €17
Medium veg box €16.50 contains over €23
Large veg box €21 contains over €29!
Isn't it nice to know without so much as having to flex one neuron that everything in these boxes, is healthy, clean, tasty, safe and has been produced with the greatest respect for our land and environment.
Routines are returning, school looms on the horizon so why not get a great healthy habit going now that will pay dividends for the rest of your life.