Clean Sourcing is Crucial
Organic + Biodynamic + Chemical-Free
Our pursuit of clean, sustainable, and chemical-free foods has resulted in highly engaged relationships with the farms, ranches, and fisheries we source from. We pay close attention to how farm’s treat their animals, crops, and land. A supplier’s transparency is among the most fundamental aspects of our decision when choosing where to source from. We only purchase from farms, ranches, and fishers who can genuinely disclose all the details about their operation. That way, we are confident they meet our standards and we stay true to our word of providing the most nutrient-rich ingredients we can.
We guarantee that the cattle is grass-fed on a pasture (there is a difference), chickens are fed their natural omnivorous diet of bugs, seeds, and larvae, and our seafood is hook and line caught from fishers who are mindful to overfishing and mercury & chemical levels.
We are devoted to sustainable practices at every scale of our operation! At a minimum, all of our ingredients are sourced from organic farms while striving to source from as many biodynamic farms as we can. Biodynamic farms use organic practices, but go beyond, pushing further into sustainability and even eliminating organic chemicals. Biodynamic farms take the entire farm system into account, emphasizing natural growing cycles and the self-sufficiency of the farm as a whole. Read on to learn more about biodynamic farming! But first we’ll explain a bit about organic practices as organic is the foundation to biodynamic.
Local + Seasonal
As it Makes Sense to the Environment
When sourcing quality ingredients to sustain our healthy, we buy locally & seasonally as it makes sense to the environment. We take into account sensitive ecosystems, knowing it is important to keep native species, well--native! So we purchase ingredients locally that are native to California while purchasing other ingredients (like yuca root for our Yucan Crunch) from their native geographic growing areas. We won’t introduce or support invasive non-native species that could harm native California plants. Native species will thrive in the soil they are tailored to; they have evolved with the land and won’t require additional chemicals to grow well. In addition, communities around the world have learned to integrate with their native crops. Just think about how California loves their Hass avocados and oranges. In Venezuela and Dominican Republic, yuca root is an export, part of each of their economies. We won’t take away from a community’s source of income by beginning a greenhouse growing operation when we can support small communities and businesses internationally.
Remember, our menu will always change according to the produce that’s in season; expect the menu to change frequently!
Weeding Out the False:
Sustainable Principles in Detail
At its best, organic farming blends traditional agricultural methods with modern technology. Organic principles place an emphasis on sustainability, independence, health, and safety. Organic farms rely on a number of farming methods to improve soil fertility and crop vitality:
Soil management: Healthy soil is imperative! Farms add nutrients to their soil by adding compost, composed of livestock manure and organic matter. Food scraps, manure, and other organic materials are broken down by organisms in the soil, converting the compost into densely nutritious soil. In addition, farmers will often plant legumes, which have nitrogen-fixing properties to bring air back into the soil. Little to no tilling is allowed in organic farming practices, which can be disastrous for the soil.
Cover diversity and cropping: Farmers do not plant the same annual crop in the same place for more than one growing cycle. Instead, they plant weed-suppressive cover crops (like legumes) or other crops with dissimilar life cycles to confuse pests and discourage weed growth. The variety in plants is crucial to treating the land with good intention; different plants bring different benefits to the soil. In addition, a range of plants helps insects, soil microorganisms, and overall farm health.
Weed management: Farms promote weed suppression rather than weed elimination through cover cropping and crop diversity. They may also utilize tricks like high-density planting or tight row spacing to minimize the space in which weeds can grow.
Pest management: Farms use natural pest suppression by encouraging beneficial insect predators and microorganisms. Reducing tilling and maintaining a high level of sanitation also helps to suppress pets. Sometimes farms make use of insect traps and physical barriers to discourage pests. Organic farms are allowed to use natural pesticides and herbicides, but this use is not ideal!
Livestock: Animal husbandry is encouraged, as animals are complements to fruit, vegetable, and grain farming. Like we mentioned before, they provide a great source of natural compost. Organic farms must attempt to provide animals with natural living conditions, but these standards are not required unless the farm intends to process the animals for meat, milk, and/or eggs.
No synthetics: No fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth hormones, antibiotics in livestock, GMOs, or sewage sludge are allowed to used in organic farming. They can, however, employ natural fertilizers and pesticides when needed--more about that soon.
The CCOF was founded in 1973 by over fifty grower members for the purpose of defining standards for organic farming. It took another 17 years for the USDA to establish its own certifying body, called the National Organic Program (NOP). The certification process today is long and expensive, and there are many small farmers who opt out of full certification. A small farm can expect to pay anywhere around $1,200 for processing and certification fees. Moreover, additional expenses are generally needed to cover the cost of assessment, inspection, and travel fees. There are plenty of small farms that operate with only organic principles because the cost and process can stand as a deterrent. Meeting uncertified farmers and starting a conversation about their organic principles is the surest way to find out their process.
Organic farming has the reputation for not using free pesticides or fertilizers. Or for the skeptical folks, using chemical-free pesticides and fertilizers. While there are regulations concerning when and how often the two can be used, they are allowed if preventative or natural methods don’t work. Non-synthetic and synthetic fertilizers can be used in certified organic farms. Non-synthetic naturally occurring pesticides include the following: blood meal, animal manure
What does this process look like that can make certified organic delayed...how long does it take for it to be biodynamic
Organic farming was officially codified in the late 1930s and early 1940 by farmers in Britain, India, and the United States and was a response to the rise in artificial pesticide in the newly industrialized world. Albert Howard is considered to be the father of modern while Gabrielle Howard, J.I. Rodale, and Eve Balfour all played key roles in the codification of organic standards.
Organic farming has grown rapidly since the United States officially began regulating such farms in 1990. Since then, organic farms have been certified at a growth rate close to 10% per year. As of 2011, approximately 91,000,000 acres of land worldwide are officially farmed organically. There are even more farms practicing organic methods that have yet to be certified. Demand is growing as consumers focus on purchasing organic ingredients over conventional. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California leads the demand for organic sales, topping the charts at $2.2 billion dollars, with Washington following with $515 million dollars spent towards organic products.
In the United States, organic farming is regulated by the USDA as well as smaller bodies in specific states. Here in California, organic certification is done by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF).
Different Types of Organic Practices
In addition, there are many different styles of organic farming. Here are just a few examples:
Biodynamic: Biodynamic farms go above and beyond organic standards, and they have their own governing body. We describe biodynamic farming in detail later! (We love biodynamic farms.)
French Intensive and/or Biointensive: This method focuses on achieving maximum yields from a small area of land, while also improving soil fertility. The goal is long-term sustainability in a fully closed system. Biointensive is an ideal method for backyard and small-scale commercial farms.
Permaculture: In addition to farming, permaculture encompasses ecological design and architecture as well. It emphasizes regenerative and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled on natural ecosystems. Permaculture methods aim to work with rather than against nature, relying on thoughtful observation of plants and animals in all of their functions.
No-Till: This system of growing crops and/or pasture never disturbs the soil through tillage. It increases the amount of water that can infiltrate soil, organic matter retention, and cycling of nutrients in the soil.
Farming we love!
Biodynamic is considered by many to be a step-up from organic farming. Organic methods are always applied, but biodynamic farming goes beyond organic in several important areas and integrates practices that take into account the entire farm as an interconnected organism.
The goal for each biodynamic farm is to be entirely self- sufficient, producing everything needed for effective and sustainable farming from within the farm.
Biodynamic farms place emphasis on the cycles of the sun and moon, and rely upon tangible and intangible forces of nature to dictate farming cycles and rhythms. As a biodynamic trade association explains, “the root of the Biodynamic system is the relationship of the farmer and his or her practices to the local ecosystem, which in Biodynamics reaches the extent of including the influence of the cosmos and subtle life forces on local habitats.”
The biodynamic farming system was founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. As the story goes, he was teaching a course of agriculture when he was approached by farmers who had noticed a rapid decline in seed fertility, crop vitality, and animal health after adopting modern agricultural methods. Steiner responded by questioning the long-term benefits of the industrial view of farms as factories, presenting instead a vision for farms as self- contained and self-sustaining organisms. A few years later, in 1928, a biodynamic governing body was formed in Europe called Demeter. This organization codified Steiner’s principles into a series of standards that could be used to certify farms. Today, Demeter has branches across the globe, and is one of only a few biodynamic governing bodies.
In order for a farm to become certified biodynamic, it must first meet organic standards. The most successful biodynamic farms are highly diverse and organized so that the waste of one part of the farm can be used to fertilize and promote other parts of the farm. Just one example is how raising pastured chickens help revitalize the soil because their constant digging and pecking incorporates their waste back into the soil. This constant recycling of resources gives back to the earth instead of taking from it.
The following standards are required:
No annual crop can be planted in the same field more than two years in a row.
No bare tillage allowed; land must retain a green cover.
At least 10% of the total acreage of the farm must be set aside for a “biodiversity preserve.” A preserve can be things like natural forests or wetlands, or it can be an area like an intentionally planted insectary. This secures biological diversity.
Any strategies for pest, disease, and weed control should originate from the farm itself, and should be addressed through species diversity and crop nutrition, deemphasizing predator habitats, and paying close attention to light penetration and airflow. Weed control should be based on prevention, identification, and avoiding the spread of invasive species.
Farms should integrate livestock when possible. Any animals on the farm must be raised in the most humane manner possible. Their housing must allow the animals to move freely and protect them from the elements. They must have clean, dry, and insulated areas to sleep and access to the outdoors and free range. Farms may not dehorn, debeak, clip wings, cut tails, or dock lambs; they are also not allowed to use antibiotics. Homeopathic remedies are encouraged. When animals are raised for meat, eggs, or milk, a minimum of one half of their feed must come from the farm. Of the outside feed, at least 80% of it must come from a Demeter-certified program.
And then there are the preparations, that resemble:
Farms are required to use nine different substances called preparations as homeopathic care for the soil and compost. According to Demeter, these preparations “revitalize the soil and stimulate root growth, enhance the development of microorganisms and humus formation, and aid in photosynthetic activity.” Farms can make them on site or can buy them through other farmers or farming institutes. Preparations are made from manure, minerals, and/or herbs in combination with animal organs and bones.
Adding the Wild Back in:
Foraging + Wild Edibles
In addition to organic and biodynamic food, we like to source as many weeds and wild foraged edibles as we can. Eating wild foods is a great way to remain engaged with the local foodways and the nature that surrounds us. In addition to frequently containing higher levels of nutrients than cultivated plants, they are the original organic produce, and when picked conscientiously, wild foods are great for the environment.
Many wild foods are a great source of vitamins & antioxidants. Check out Alicia Funk, of The Living Wild Project. She is a great resource for healing and healthy edibles. You can find her website at http://www.livingwild.org/. Look out for the co-authored book titled, Living Wild Gardening, Cooking, and Healing with Native Plants of California.
Okay, but we’ve all heard stories or maybe just know they exist. Wild foraging is fun, delicious, and a constant learning experience! There are so many plants; it takes time to learn what they are! Before foraging for edibles on your own, it is crucial that you learn what is and isn’t edible in your region. Taking a class or going on a foraging field trip is a great way to learn.
Highlighting the distinction between healthy and unhealthy
Pasture-Raised vs. Grass-Fed Beef
All of the meat we serve at Mission Heirloom has been raised on pasture, and our beef is all 100% grass-fed. Any animals that are primarily fed pasture grasses can be labeled “pastured,” even if they are fed supplemental food like grain and silage during the winter or before slaughter. Only animals that are fed 100% pasture for their entire lives can be labeled “grass-fed.”
At the same time, this meat has more protein, omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), amino acids, vitamins (A, B6, B12, E and D), minerals (riboflavin, phosphorus, niacin, zinc, and heme iron). Why? These animals are what they eat! Animals raised in grasses are high in these nutrients, and they get distributed throughout the muscle and fat of the animals that eat them. In fact, the health of the grass is so important that many ranchers call themselves “grass-farmers.”
Because of the drought in California, local 100% grass-fed meat is becoming harder to find. Pastured meat can be a good choice if you cannot find grass-fed, but make sure that the farmer raising the animals is doing so in a humane and reputable manner. Be sure to ask what the farmer is feeding his or her animals. You’ll want to avoid non-organic and GMO soy- and corn-based feeds.
We’ve made a commitment to grass-fed meat for several reasons. First, grass-fed animals grow at a natural pace, are healthier, and lead low-stress lives. They are raised as nature intended, instead of being raised as a production company has deemed efficient. Second, grass-fed animals animals are better for the environment. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are often full of manure and waste, which pile up and emit high levels of methane into the atmosphere. Grass-fed animal ranches rotate the animals across large parcels of grassland, which prevents overgrazing and makes it possible for manure to be reincorporated into the soil as compost. Third, grass-fed meat is much healthier than meat that comes from grain-fed, confined animals. Grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, and goats all have less total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than grain-fed.
Many shoppers believe that the best chickens are vegetarian fed. However, when one observes free roaming, wild chickens, you see something quite different. Chicken (and turkeys, ducks and other poultry) are omnivores, just like us. When they are raised properly on pasture, chickens get a chance to forage for bugs, insects, and larvae in addition to seeds, grass, and other plants.
Seafood is also an important protein in our kitchen, but it can be very tricky to source from a quality and trusted supplier. We never buy or sell farmed fish. We’re committed to continue building a relationship with our hook and line supplier. In order for seafood to be considered sustainable, fish must be caught in ways that consider the long-term vitality of the species as well as the health and sustainability of its ocean habitat. Most marine ecosystems are under a great deal of pressure today, and this pressure is caused by both overfishing and climate change. Responsible fisheries can help restore these ecosystems simply by paying attention.
We purchase our seafood from Water2Table, a distributor that focuses on local hook and line fish and delivers to many reputable restaurants in the Bay Area. But even if you don’t have access to a great wholesaler like we do, there are services that will help you make a good choice. Ecolabeling programs evaluate fishing processes with fixed environmental standards; they pay close attention to the fish’s abundance, how it responds to fishing pressure, how the fishery’s gear impacts the ecosystem, if there are any bycatch, and the fishery’s management. The Marine Stewardship Council issues the most common eco-labels, which are colored like stoplights. Red-labeled fish are considered a poor choice, yellow-labeled are marketed as a good alternative, and green-labeled are the best choice. Grocery stores like Whole Foods display these labels for many of their seafood products. Other organizations like the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch focus on education and awareness, and they are a great resource for research.
If you’re curious about why we choose not to support farm fishing, check out the documentary, Salmon Confidential to learn more.