If Old MacDonald had a Farmigo, he and Mrs. MacDonald could stay up to watch late night TV instead of turning in early and rising at the crack of dawn. Can you picture the two of them, yukking it up on the sofa, big screen TV on and a box of Farmigo’s Gluten-Free Cheddar Cheese Crisps between them? MacDonald could leave it to farmers like Tim Tonjes of Tonjes Farm Dairy and Greg Swartz, Tannis Kowalchuk and John Bachman of Willow Wisp Organic to milk the cows and harvest the kale, carrots, radishes and beets. Heck, Old MacDonald and the Mrs. could even slim down and rediscover the spring in their step by adopting a plant-centered diet with all the beautiful options on offer at the Farmigo virtual marketplace.
For those of you who are not familiar with Farmigo, it is an online source of fine and carefully curated nearby comestibles. It provides its customers with easy access to numerous local producers and purveyors of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, seafood, bread, pastries, prepared foods and so much more. Farmigo sources the majority of its food from no more than 250 miles from your delivery drop-off point. There are at least seven Farmigo delivery drop-off points just within the seven square miles of my South Orange-Maplewood, NJ neighborhood.
The folks at Farmigo are fussy fuss budgets who taste-test every product they offer and insist on knowing the origin of all their whole foods. They are also concerned that the base ingredients comprising their packaged goods are of high quality. They favor artisan operations and producers who employ conscientious growing methods. Their purveyors create all or at least many of their own ingredients and execute their own small-batch production. In other words, Farmigo is the website you choose when you want to eat fruit preserves prepared by the farmers who grow the fruit, pastas handmade on the farm where the grain is cultivated, and sauce from the growers who plant the tomato seeds.
Remember Tim Tonjes and Greg, Tannis and John, those early rising Farmigo farmers I mentioned before who could save Old Mac and his lady love the trouble of rising with the rooster? They are fine examples of the producers who make Farmigo great. Farmer Tim Tonjes has been raising pastured cattle and producing hormone-free, non-homogenized and low temperature pasteurized dairy products on his Callicoon, NY farm since the 1950s, but within the past ten years his operation has expanded to include a dairy kitchen tucked underneath a hill. There he uses his lovely cows’ milk to make yogurt, kefir and buttermilk, as well as fresh and aged cheeses.
Then there’s husband and wife team Greg Swartz and Tannis Kowalchuk who along with their son, Simon and their third partner John Bachman, grow a beautiful assortment of vegetables, herbs and flowers on their twelve acre farm in Damascus, Pennsylvania. Their focus is on cultivating the farm’s rich and healthy soil. Insisting on sustainable farming methods, this fine bunch uses no pesticides whatsoever. How do you like them apples? Actually, they don’t grow apples on their pristine farm, but their curly kale, arugula, rainbow carrots, beets and watermelon radishes are staples on my weekly Farmigo list this time of year and you can admire their good looks in the photo above. As you can see, Farmigo’s artisans and their products are nothing short of impressive.
I am dazzled not only by the quality of the food, but by the incredible variety. Creamy, floral Mini Ashmead’s Kernel Apples, an heirloom variety that dates back to the 17th century, croissants from a world-class French bakery in Brooklyn and black bean hummus from Vermont can all shack up in a shopping bag, strange bedfellows brought together by fate, or at least by the fancies of the discriminating shopper’s taste buds.
Speaking of shopping bags, a customer’s selected items are carefully packed in recyclable brown paper ones, and affixed to each bag is an itemized list of its contents. The label also indicates which number bag it happens to be in your total collection of bags for that order so you’re unlikely to leave behind yummy things.
I have to admit, one of the reasons I’m attracted to Farmigo is that I’m worried about the conventional food supply in the United States. Our regulatory agency, the Food and Drug Administration, claims that dairy and meat from cows treated with recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is safe for human consumption, yet these synthesized hormones are banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Argentina and the European Union. Various artificial blue and yellow food dyes are banned in several European countries, but you’ll find them decorating many of the colorful, chemicalized processed foods on your local supermarket’s shelves. Long gone are the days when spices like saffron and turmeric and dyes from brightly pigmented vegetables such as beets were the preferred method to enliven foods with vibrant hues.
The European Union is also far more cautious than the U.S. about authorizing GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and irradiated foods, considering them “new food.” Each modified or irradiated food is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before it is allowed into the food supply. These “new foods” are not necessarily banned in the E.U., but they come under extremely close scrutiny. European governments and consumers are much less receptive than their U.S. counterparts when it comes to accepting risks from nonessential ingredients. If a food presented for sale in the E.U. does contain any genetically modified plants or organisms, labeling is mandatory even if no GMO can be detected in the final product. In the U.S. there is no federal requirement for labeling food containing GMOs. It is also important to note that many of the policy makers who represent the FDA, the watchdogs who are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our health, have strong ties to the powerful food industry including the American multinational agrochemical and biotechnology giant, Monsanto.
You may be wondering what Farmigo’s policy is on GMOs. Here’s what I have learned. Farmigo pledges that all of the fresh, whole fruits and vegetables they sell are entirely non-GMO. Creating partnerships with the finest small-scale farmers, bakers, fishermen and artisans rather than agribusinessmen and Big Food heavyweights means that there is a focus on craftsmanship, transparency and sustainability which extends to the ingredients that are selected for prepared goods. However, to be clear, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every single base ingredient in every single product is completely free of GMOs. For example, I recently reached out to Farmigo to question them about the possible presence of GMOs in their products that list sugar as an ingredient since genetically modified sugar beets make up half of the U.S. sugar production and 95% of this country’s sugar beet market. What I found out is that although Farmigo chooses its purveyors with exceptional care, it does not specifically impose a strict non-GMO policy. However, the Farmigo representative who received my GMO query assured me that if customers have questions about anything, including GMO use in specific products, he will gladly have his Sourcing Team reach out to the individual producers for even more detailed information than what is already available on the Farmigo website. This response indicates that Farmigo has faith in the products they sell. Keep in mind that purchasing exclusively Certified Organic products (abundantly available and clearly labeled on the Farmigo website) is the surest way to be certain that you’re avoiding GMOs.
Monsanto, on the other hand, is the ultimate source if you are trying to increase your intake of GMOs and suspicious chemicals. It is the leading producer of genetically engineered seed and the controversial herbicide glyphosate which is also known by the brand name “Roundup.” Monsanto insists that GMOs are perfectly safe even though no long-term human studies have been conducted and despite the fact that longer-term studies in rats have shown evidence of colossal tumor growth as well as immune, digestive and reproductive impairment. Monsanto once assured the American public that DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange were safe, so I’m sure you’ll understand why I’m not so keen on trusting them this time around when it comes to GMOs.
You and I, Old MacDonald and his wife, and the ladies and gents who work at Monsanto are not lab rats or guinea pigs. We are human beings with intricately designed masterpiece-quality bodies that need to be properly nourished in order to operate optimally for the long haul. Therefore, I will consider with great care what kind of food goes into my masterpiece. The food I choose is responsibly grown and produced by people who care about the health of their customers and the planet, as well as the welfare of the animals they keep. It’s the kind of food Old MacDonald would recognize…the kind of food I can find at Farmigo, and I’m proud to be a loyal customer.
Perhaps you’re curious about the price of this thoughtfully grown and beautifully crafted food available for purchase on the Farmigo website? I’ll be honest…it ain’t cheap. High quality food rarely is. There is usually one item offered at a discounted price each week, but be prepared to pay $4.99 per dozen for free-running, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, organic feed eggs from Meadow Creek Farm, $6.29 for two lovely chocolate croissants from Bien Cuit Bakery in Brooklyn and $7.49 for an eight-ounce container of exceptionally delicious black bean hummus. Industrial food-like substances may seem like a bargain in the short run, but believe me when I tell you that your body registers the offense when you feed it chemical-laden junk food and eventually will present you with a costly bill.
There are sources of clean, health-promoting food out there and Farmigo is one of the places you can find it. Maybe I’ll send my friend Old MacDonald a Farmigo coupon for 40% off his first order. (I can do that for you too, by the way, if you sign on as a customer through a link I’d be happy to provide). If he’s curious, he can peruse the website and enjoy the farmer bios and photographs of seductive food in suggestive poses. It’s possible, though, that Old MacDonald might want to be a Farmigo purveyor as well as a consumer. He is a traditional farmer, after all, who employs best practices like polyculture planting while encouraging soil microbial life to create crops with a high nutritive value. He’d be in great company with the like-minded producers over at Farmigo if he chose to be part of their community. It’s music to my ears to know that Old MacDonald has a farm and on that farm he has some options. We do too, you know. When we select our food we cast our votes and make our voices heard, so let us sing in harmony and in health a resounding E-I-E-I-O!