Farming Methods

If you want to understand more about different farming methods and how they impact your food choices, read on below for our guide! We’ve made it super easy for you to make the best choices by ensuring each business notifies us of which farming methods they use.

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Agroforestry

Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. This intentional combination of agriculture and forestry has varied benefits, including increased biodiversity and reduced erosion. Agroforestry practices have been successful in sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of the United States. Agroforestry shares principles with intercropping. Both may place two or more plant species in proximity.

Animal Welfare Approved (7 listings)

A food label for meat and dairy products that come from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. The programme was founded in 2006 as a market-based solution to the growing consumer demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals treated with high welfare and managed with the environment in mind.

Biodynamic (4 listings)

Biodynamic agriculture is based heavily on Rudolph Steiner’s 1924 lectures, which are rooted in his spiritual and philosophical theories. This movement is defined as a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition. Steiner’s lectures to farmers emphasised a new way to integrate scientific understanding with a recognition of spirit in nature. Biodynamics has continued to develop and evolve since the 1920s, and is practiced in differing degrees throughout the world. Many of the principles emphasise the farm as a living organism on all levels, biodiversity, and poly-culture ecological systems incorporating plants and animals, as well as planting in relation to the moon’s cycles throughout the month.

Certified American Grass Fed Association (AGA) (15 listings)

Their certification is third-party verified and guarantees that when consumers buy grass fed beef with the American Grass Fed Association logo, they are ensured it was born, raised, and processed in the USA, that the animals were treated humanely, and that they were grazed regeneratively. This confirms to shopkeepers and the consumer that American Grass Fed Association certified producers are improving soils, water quality, biodiversity, and American farming communities. American Grass Fed Beef is more expensive to produce than its foreign and domestic competition, but the price of Certified American Grass Fed Beef reflects the real cost of providing the highest quality, honest grass fed meat to you and your family. They also stand by the rights of farmers and ranchers to make a living that not only supports their families, but encourages next-generation succession.

Certified Humane (3 listings)

Humane Farm Animal Care is an international non-profit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter. The goal of this program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices. When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment. You can find Certified Humane products in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, and Peru.

Certified Naturally Grown (31 listings)

Certified Naturally Grown offers peer-review certification to farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities by working in harmony with nature, without relying on synthetic chemicals or GMOs. Their standards are based on the highest ideals of the organic movement. Their approach is based on transparency, direct relationships and a firm belief in our ability to create something uniquely valuable by working together. More than 750 farmers and beekeepers throughout the United States and Canada are Certified Naturally Grown.

Certified Organic (72 listings)

This is food or agricultural practices that comply with the standards of organic farming. These standards may vary worldwide, but generally speaking, organic means that pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemical additives/amendments are restricted, in the aim of protecting ecological biodiversity. For a farm or a food to be certified organic in the US, they need to obtain a special certification from the governmental food safety authority, the National Organic Program of the USDA. Organic foods are increasingly demanded by the consumer, from a concern for personal health and for the ecosystem.  There are many ways to become Certified Organic, but the most common one for the US is the government agency USDA Organic. Organic certification requires that farmers and handlers document their processes and get inspected every year. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.UD

Certified Regenerative Organic

The Regenerative Organic Certification was created by a coalition of like-minded farmers, ranchers, brands, non-profits, and other organizations who believed in the need for an all-encompassing regenerative certification. Led by the Rodale Institute, the Regenerative Organic Alliance will oversee Regenerative Organic Certification. Made up of experts in farming, ranching, soil health, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness, the Regenerative Organic Alliance will regularly reevaluate certification requirements and update the certification, as necessary. This is a brand-new initiative which is currently running its pilot program.

Certified Transitional

A program established by Quality Assurance International, it provides certification to recognize and incentivize farmers to transition their land from conventional to organic growing methods. Currently, less than 1% of US farmland is organic and farmers are struggling to meet the growing consumer demand for organic food. While organic products can fetch higher prices, it takes three years for a farm to transition from conventional to organic, and this certification aims to bridge that gap, indicating that the farmer is working towards organic certification, while raising consumer awareness.

Conventional (29 listings)

Conventional farming, also known as industrial agriculture, refers to farming systems which include the use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, as well as other inputs like genetically-modified crops, factory farming, heavy irrigation, intensive tillage and/or concentrated monoculture production. Conventional farming is usually contrasted to organic farming as the latter prohibits the use of chemical inputs and amendments.

Cover Cropping

A cover crop is a crop of a specific plant that is grown primarily for the benefit of the soil rather than the crop yield. Cover crops are commonly used to suppress weeds, manage soil erosion, help build and improve soil fertility and quality, control diseases and pests, and promote biodiversity. Cover crops are typically grasses or legumes but may include other green plants. A cover crop can help ready the land for a cash crop in the case of monoculture, conventional, and industrial sized organic farming, or it can be used as part of a wider planting scheme in combination with crop rotation and polyculture systems.

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar crops or different types of crops in the same area in sequenced seasons. This is done so that the soil nutrients are preserved and not used only for one set of plants. It helps to reduce soil erosion and increases fertility and crop yield. With rotation, in contrast to monocropping, a crop that leaches the soil of one kind of nutrient is followed during the next growing season by a crop that returns that nutrient to the soil or draws a different ratio of nutrients. This also helps to mitigate pest and disease problems, and can help improve soil structure and fertility by increasing biomass from varied root structures. It is utilized in both conventional and organic farming systems and has been historically very prevalent since ancient times.

Demeter Certified Biodynamic (2 listings)

Demeter International is the largest certification organization for biodynamic agriculture, and is one of three predominant organic certifiers. The biodynamic certification requires biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration, prohibition of genetically engineered organisms, and viewing the farm as a living ‘holistic organism’. The Demeter certification program was established in 1928, and as such was the first ecological label for organically produced foods. See also: Biodynamic.

Food Forestry (1 listing)

Also known as forest gardening, it is seen as a low-maintenance, sustainable, plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines, and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. It utilizes companion planting and intercropping to grow in a succession of layers to build a woodland habitat. Forest gardening is a prehistoric method of securing food in tropical areas.

Good Agricultural Practices Certified (GAP) (3 listings)

Good Agricultural Practices is a global organization with a crucial objective: safe, sustainable agriculture worldwide, and provide trademarks and certification. They set voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. Committing to economic, social, and ecological responsibility in all their action, they rely on collaboration, fairness, and recognition for the work done under the label.  They cover more than 40 standards and programs for three areas: Crops, Livestock and Aquaculture.

Grass Fed / Pastured (236 listings)

The term “grass fed” (as opposed to grain fed) refers to meat obtained from cows that were raised on a diet of grass and other forage, such as clover; situated in pasture and, when fresh grass is unavailable, hay. This helps to denote the difference between livestock that has been raised in feedlots and generally fed a diet of soy and corn, versus animals that have had access to their natural feeding environment in pasture, which contains grasses, wildflowers, and herbs. This term overlaps with “pasture-raised” and will usually be seen together. Grass-fed beef is also believed to taste better, and be better for the environment, too. There are several organizations that offer a certification for Grass Fed, such as the American Grassfed Association, Certified Grassfed by A Greener World, and Pasture for Life, to name a few.

Halal (8 listings)

Halaal is an Arabic term, which means ‘permissible or lawful’ in English. In terms of meat, the term halaal specifically refers to the method of slaughter whereby a well-sharpened knife is used to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat and the blood drained from the veins, as the blood of the animal must never be consumed. Normally, the animal will be stunned prior to having its throat cut. Halaal meat is also blessed before being killed, with the utterance of the Islamic prayer Bismillah “in the name of God”. The meat cannot be pork, which is explicitly prohibited in Islam.

Holistic Management (6 listings)

Coined by Alan Savory, holistic management is an approach to managing resources in an agricultural setting. The term Holistic Management is trademarked to the Holistic Management International organization. At its core, the approach focuses mainly on livestock grazing in a way that is similar to cyclical grazing. This method means livestock are moved frequently from pasture to pasture, allowing for short periods of disturbance, followed by rest periods to allow for the grasslands to regenerate. Beyond grazing practices, Holistic Management also encompasses guidelines for decision making through six indicators: define what you are managing, define what you want now and for the future, watch for the earliest indicators of ecosystem health, don’t limit the management tools you use, test your decisions with questions, and monitor proactively. Additionally, Holistic Management relies on four principles. These are: that nature functions as a holistic community, that any agricultural practice must be adaptable to nature’s complexity, animal husbandry of domesticated species can be used as a substitute for a lost keystone species, and that time and timing is the most important factor in planning land use.

Hydroponics & Aquaponics (14 listings)

Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, which is a method of growing plants without soil, by instead using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Aquaponics refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment, where the plants benefit from the nutrients produced by the fish excrement. Many have turned to these forms of agriculture as land availability becomes increasingly scarce. Hydroponics is not considered a sustainable form of agriculture, as it continuously requires nutrient inputs, without returning them back into the soil or in another form. Aquaponics is considered to be a more sustainable option, as the fish and plants operate in a symbiotic relationship. Both of these methods require highly regulated variables and usually operate in closed systems.

Integrated Pest Management (63 listings)

Also known as Integrated Pest Control, it is a broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic control of pests. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) aims to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level. It is the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize the risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.

Kosher (5 listings)

A set of dietary laws dealing with the foods that Jews are permitted to eat and how those foods must be prepared according to Jewish law. Food that may be consumed is deemed kosher. Although the details of the laws of kashrut are numerous and complex, they rest on a few basic principles. Only certain types of mammals, birds and fish are kosher, while others, such as pork and shellfish, are forbidden. Kosher animals must be slaughtered according to a process known as shechita, which is similar to that of Halaal. Meat and meat derivatives may never be mixed with milk and milk derivatives. 

Monoculture

Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing a single crop, plant, or livestock species, variety, or breed in a field or farming system at a time. Monoculture is widely used in both industrial and organic farming. Monoculture has allowed for increased efficiency in planting and harvesting, while simultaneously increasing the risk of exposure to disease or pests. Continuous monoculture, or monocropping, is where agriculturalists raise the same species year after year - this can impact soil erosion, lead to a quicker buildup of pests and diseases which can spread rapidly.

Naturally Grown (356 listings)

Some of the businesses listed in our directory will be using the same principles as Certified Naturally Grown farmers, but without the certification. Certifications can often be expensive and time consuming for most farmers to participate in, and therefore we feel it is important to acknowledge those who practice good land stewardship, without certification.

No-Till (1 listing)

No-till farming is also known as zero tillage or direct drilling.This practice minimises soil disturbance while growing crops or pasture. No-till farming decreases the amount of soil erosion that tillage can cause in certain soils, as well as increasing the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil, retention of organic matter, and nutrient cycling. Some no-tillage systems rely on large amounts of herbicides to control weeds. However, tillage is dominant in agriculture today. Low-till and no-till methods are increasingly being utilized in poly-cultivation and may include the use of shallow disc harrowing, but does not allow plowing.

Permaculture (20 listings)

A set of design principles centered on whole systems thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. The term was coined by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison in 1978, and originally meant “permanent agriculture” but has expanded to include “permanent culture”. Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature, and thinking of plants and animals as multi-faceted rather than treating them as single product systems.

Polyculture

Polyculture is a form of agriculture in which more than one species is grown at the same time and place in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems. Polyculture is the opposite of monoculture, in which only members of one plant or animal species are cultivated together. Polyculture has traditionally been the most prevalent form of agriculture in most parts of the world, and is growing back into popularity today due to its environmental and health benefits. There are many types of polyculture including annual polycultures such as intercropping and cover cropping, permaculture, and integrated aquaculture. It is advantageous because of its ability to control pests, weeds, and disease without major chemical inputs. It is considered a sustainable form of agriculture.

Regenerative Agriculture (14 listings)

Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming. Some of its key focuses are topsoil regeneration, increased biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystems, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and improving the health and vitality of farm soil. Practices involved with regenerative farming include recycling as much farm waste as possible and adding composting materials from sources outside of the farm.

Subsistence Farming

This occurs when farmers grow food crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families. In subsistence agriculture, farm output is targeted to survival and is mostly for local requirements with little or no surplus. Planting decisions are made principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and secondarily toward market prices. Self-sufficiency is key in subsistence farming, but many also participate in trade to some degree.

Transitional (25 listings)

Pursuing an organic certification can be time consuming, expensive, and filled with paperwork. Many farms are transitioning to utilizing organic agricultural practices, but may not be ‘Certified Transitional’ or ultimately pursue an Organic certification. Farms marked with Transitional will still be working towards minimizing, and eventually eradicating, their use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other mechanical interventions that don’t meet with organic practices.

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