This is what happens when you eat organic

Colorful rows of organic produce, tomatoes, peppers, and okra, lines Amy's Garden stall at the WIlliamsburg Farmers Market. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Amy Hicks)
Colorful rows of organic produce, tomatoes, peppers, and okra, lines Amy’s Garden stall at the WIlliamsburg Farmers Market. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Amy Hicks)

The World Wildlife Fund recently announced its new campaign entitled, “50 Foods for a Healthier People and a Healthier Planet.

The list of 50 foods consists of vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds, legumes and nuts, and was developed to encourage variety in what people grow and eat.

“Diversified diets not only improve human health but benefit the environment through diversified production systems that encourage wildlife and more sustainable use of resources,” said Peter Gregory, research adviser for Crops For the Future.

Julie Mitchell, nutritionist and founder of The Nutrition and Wellness Center in Williamsburg, outlined the health benefits of eating a diversified diet.

“Everyone’s genetic makeup is different. But in general, everyone needs a proper balance of proteins, carbs, and fats, depending on their body size how they metabolize these macronutrients,” Mitchell said. “It’s also important to eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables, 5-9 servings a day, while rotating them in your diet to [ensure] a wide variety of micronutrients.”

Mitchell encourages her clients to pay attention to what they’re eating and how they’re feeling, if those foods could be contributing to symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation/diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, or sinus issues.

“Read labels, research, do the due diligence about food companies and the chemicals in their products,” Mitchell said. “And, if you can do local farms, I highly recommend it.”

“It’s typically clean and often these farms use organic practices, from the field to the farmer’s market to our tables,” she added. “No chemicals. If we support these farms, they will continue to be here to serve us. We need them and they need us. Community united.”

Amy Hicks, of Amy’s Garden, a Virginia-based certified-organic farm that supplies venues such as the Williamsburg and Richmond farmers markets with fresh organic produce, couldn’t agree more.

“For us it’s the only way to grow. It’s so much better for the soil, the land, the workers on the farm, our employees, and our customers,” Hicks said. “Non-organic or conventional/mainstream farms commonly use fungicides, pesticides, and weed killers.”

An organic farm is started on land that has been free of chemicals for at least three years prior to growing. From there, one must follow standard organic agriculture practices, “nurturing the soil, improving it, regenerating it, not depleting it, and of course, using all natural fertilizers, versus synthetic fertilizers, which can be derived from petroleum, or sludge, or worse things,” Hicks said.

According to the Environmental Working Group, nearly 70 percent of the produce sold in the U.S. comes with pesticide residues.

Each year the group releases a shopper’s guide, known as the Dirty Dozen, which ranks fruits and vegetables by pesticide levels, after washing and peeling. By eating organic, one can ensure consumption of fewer pesticides, while also resting-easy knowing that the organic farming techniques used won’t contribute to further wildlife, water, or land damage.

For more information on how to locate organic-certified farms near you, visit the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services site here.

For more information on the Williamsburg Farmers Market and seasonal hours click here.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.