Sustainability and eco-anything is incredibly trendy at the moment. There are a lot of different words being used to describe these movements and what they mean for our current future. In this article, we’ll break down some of these terms, so it can be easier to understand. If you come across any of these words in our articles or in our directory, you’ll know immediately what they mean! So, let’s get started.
One of the very important phrases we use here at TexasRealFood is Beyond Organic. So what do we mean by this? And how can something be beyond organic? The term itself is used by a lot of regenerative farmers and those who believe in a more holistic approach to land stewardship and conservation. Beyond organic believes in many of the same values as the organic certification, however, aims to move beyond this as growing concerns for the industrialization and lack of holistic approach within the certification is mounting. The Beyond Organic movement sees this industrialization as highly problematic, as it still relies heavily on mono-culture systems and many feel the standards for certification are not stringent enough. The movement aims to address these issues by focusing instead on creating consumer-business relationships with farmers and farm-businesses that believe in a wider approach to organic, including resource management, poly-culture systems and protecting biodiversity at every level.
Many who believe in beyond organic farming principles may also practice regenerative farming, permaculture, or carbon farming. Carbon farming is integral to regenerative agriculture. It is a name for a variety of agricultural methods aimed at sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil and in crop roots, wood and leaves. Increasing soil’s carbon content can aid plant growth, increase soil organic matter, improve soil water retention capacity and reduce fertilizer use. Often used in combination with regenerative farming practices, holistic land management, and other beyond organic agricultural methods. Many carbon farming methods include utilizing cover crops, integrated holistic grazing practices, and ensuring good crop rotation, interplanting schemes, and similar permaculture design principles.
What do we mean by holistic? Well, at its essence, holistic means that it is characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole. This is an important part of the environmentalist and sustainability discussion, as the only way to ensure a healthy ecosystem is to operate as one: by ensuring that everything done has a positive purpose that allows for other species and plant matter to thrive. Many environmentalist practices apply this term in several different areas to denote specific practices or outcomes thereof (see for example: Holistic Management [linked]). This term, however, can also be applied to a way of thinking, approaching, or believing in certain types of solutions or sustainable practices.
In holistic agricultural practices, and many others, as well as varying industries such as cosmetics and clothing production, companies and individuals will refer to ‘sustainability’ or that something is ‘sustainable’. What exactly does this mean? Well, at its root, sustainable means the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld or confirmed. In terms of agriculture and the green movement, it embodies the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. Unfortunately, this term has become increasingly used in the practice of ‘green-washing’, where companies will plaster un-regulated terms like this on products that still have highly problematic relationships to production methods, land stewardship, and true focus on encouraging biodiversity and a healthy planet. However, when we use this term on TexasRealFood, we stick to the definition above, ensuring that you feel confident when purchasing from, or working with, businesses that look at their inputs and outputs from a holistic point of view, and are actively working to minimize their impact on the environment.
As part of this, many people are looking to create and sustain a Local Food Movement. This movement aims to connect food producers and consumers in the same geographic area to develop more self-reliant and resilient food networks, improve local economies, and to stimulate the community of a place. It is sometimes referred to as the “locavore” movement. It represents an alternative to the global food model, minimizing transport issues, and maximizing freshness. Sometimes this is also referred to as being ‘locavore’, or someone might describe themselves as being a locavore, meaning they believe in the local food movement and try to support it as much as possible within their own community.
Similarly, the global phenomenon of the Slow Food movement considers a return to enjoying food maximally. Slow Food has grown to become a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us. Slow Food believes food is tied to many other aspects of life, including culture, politics, agriculture and the environment. Slow Food believes that food choices are powerful and can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed. They host events, seminars, and festivals across 160 countries. Many who are not a part of the organization will still use the term to define the way they approach their cooking or food style, so keep an eye out for restaurants and other businesses who believe in these same values. It’s all about togetherness, and taking time and love to create beautiful, healthy and wholesome meals.
Key in these movements is the notion of Farm to Table cooking.This is a social movement which promotes serving local food at restaurants and school cafeterias, preferably through direct acquisition from the producer. The movement has arisen more or less concurrently with changes in attitudes about food safety, food freshness, seasonality, and small-farm economics. The movement favors fresh, local ingredients, and in turn supporting small family farms and heirloom, open-pollinated varieties of fruits and vegetables that are slowly disappearing. Another term which is often applied to mean the same thing is Farm to Fork, which has been capitalized upon by large, genre-defining restaurants across the world which look to champion local producers, enhance traceability and usually will also encourage nose-to-tail eating. This means they encourage the use of all parts of an animal that have been slaughtered for consumption, minimizing, or even eliminating, any waste and teaching people to enjoy a wide variety of cuts and pieces for their usefulness and nutritional value.
As more people are becoming increasingly aware of these terms, and focusing on locality and seasonality when choosing their produce, many look to growing their own. However, most people live in urban areas, with little access to farmable land. With a premium on space, but with unfailing enthusiasm and drive, many are turning to urban farming. Urban agriculture, urban farming, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. With an increasing lack of space available for farming, and/or the financial inaccessibility to farmland (whether it be due to regional prices or necessity to live in urban areas for work), urban farming has become increasingly attractive to city dwellers who want to positively contribute to the environment and actualize their sustainability beliefs, while increasing their self-reliance and resilience.
So whether you’re looking for the best Farm-to-Table restaurant, making sure your purchases are truly sustainable, or wanting to learn more about the Slow Food movement, we hope this guide will help you along the way to finding the right resources for yourself and your family.