Daily News Archive
From May 4, 2006                                                                                                        

Group Of Montana Organic Farmers Creates “Homegrown” Label
(Beyond Pesticides, May 4, 2006)
The Western Montana Sustainable Growers Union, a new group that is made up of 12 organic farms near Missoula, Montana, will offer an alternative to the USDA organic certification. The alternative label – Homegrown – will indicate that the food being sold has been grown using sustainable agricultural and labor practices on farms that are within a 150 mile radius. The Homegrown label looks to go beyond the USDA Organic label regulating not just how the food is grown, but also where and using what labor practices.

The push for the Homegrown label has come as a reaction to the corporatization of organic farming. The farmers who came up with the idea of the new label feel that corporate organics have lost touch with the roots of the organic movement, which they believe has at it’s core community and local sustainability. “Our organization feels like organic certification makes a lot of sense for growers who live at a distance from their customers. For those growers the only way customers can be assured that their food was grown the way it was supposed to be grown is to have an impartial third party do inspections. But when the grower and the customer are close together, there can be a trusting relationship. The customer can look the farmer in the eye and ask how the produce was grown,” said Josh Slotnick, the head of Garden City Harvest, a Missoula community gardening program, and one of the organizers of the Growers Union. "We're a part of Missoula and all of our behavior will reflect our loyalty, and our desire to see Missoula become a better place."

Selling food locally not only supports the ideology behind the organic movement, but it also has a significantly lower environmental impact than non-local marketing. Of food grown within the U.S., the average piece of produce travels 1,500 miles from the farm to the supermarket. In Montana, for example, about 90% of the produce bought is grown out of state. Transporting food from one state to another, not to mention importing it from other countries, uses an incredibly high amount of energy and fuel. It also does nothing to boost local economies.

To educate the public and promote their label, the Growers Union plans to provide brochures and displays alongside its produce to inform consumers about the new label and where their food comes from. Additionally, they plan to hold open farm days where people can actually visit the farms and see how their food is grown and how the farm is run.

TAKE ACTION: Find and support local organic producers in your area. Use Local Harvest's website as a reource for finding local organic growers.