As the year comes to an end it’s become a tradition of mine to write a note of gratitude to Big Ag for the many ‘gifts’ they’ve given us throughout the year that we didn’t really want, need or – in some cases – didn’t even know about. Here’s my top 10 for 2012... #10 – Undermining Organic With Industrial Practices Many people are putting their faith in the “certified organic” label as an easy way to support farming systems that care about animal welfare, our health and the health of the planet. But the popularity of organic food is attracting industrial-scale operators who are exploiting the organic regulations for their own short-term gains. In October, news broke that a large-scale “organic” egg producer was being sued for making misleading marketing claims about the welfare of its chickens. Judy's Family Farm Organic Eggs’ cartons feature images of hens roaming on green fields, while the carton explains the hens are “raised in wide open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to ‘roam, scratch, and play’.” Yet it’s alleged that the birds are kept in covered sheds with no outdoor access, misleading consumers. Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident...
Dixon Family Farms is now accepting EBT benefits though the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP,” formerly the Food Stamp Program) in order to meet the needs of the Greene County community. EBT provides assistance to individuals at the poverty level and EBT cards can be used to make food purchases at participating vendors, which now includes Dixon Family Farms. The farm was recently AWA-certified for pigs, meaning the animals are raised according to the highest animal welfare standards. Dixon Family Farms accepting EBT benefits enables community members of all income levels to enjoy high-welfare pork and provides the community with sustainable food choices.
Farmer Jay Dixon says the decision was largely motivated by the need he sees in his own community: “Greene County is a poor county. Ninety percent of the population is probably right at the poverty line. This to us is a way to make high quality, healthful food accessible to everyone. From our perspective, there are some administrative hoops you have to jump through, but it’s really not that difficult.”
AWA Program Director Andrew Gunther says, “This is a huge step forward in the issue of food access. Jay and Pamela are addressing a challenge that is very near and dear to our goals as a program. Good food is not elitist: everyone should have the right to food that is clean, safe, and wholesome.”
Jay Dixon chose AWA certification because it lets consumers know that their animals are raised in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S., using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm. The label also shows that animals are never given sub-therapeutic antibiotics, and are raised outdoors in an environmentally responsible way. Dixon says, “I want people to know that we care about what we’re doing. When they see the AWA logo on our website and on our barn, they know, ‘These people understand what they’re doing, and they care about what they’re doing.’”
Dixon Family Farms’ Animal Welfare Approved pork is available directly from the farm seven days a week, and at their farm stand from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday–Saturday. For more information, visit AWA’s online directory or http://www.dixonfamilyfarms.com/.