These terms and their definitions are intended to provide some clarity for both producers and consumers in an area that is often confusing, given the growing number of terms used to describe farms and their products, and the lack of legal definitions for many terms. While our list of agricultural practices is not exhaustive, it includes working definitions for many of the practices commonly used on area farms. Some terms that are open to interpretation (e.g. “sustainable”) are not included. We hope this glossary helps you better understand the practices farmers choose to use on their farms, but this list is just a start. The best way to get more information is to talk to your farmers. They are happy to answer your questions about their practices.
Antibiotics: Medicine used to treat illness caused by bacteria. In confined livestock operations, antibiotics are routinely added to animal feed to increase weight gain and inhibit illnesses caused by close quarters. The increase of antibiotics both in the food chain and in the environment through animal waste increases the rate at which bacteria become antibiotic-resistant.
Cage Free: Cage Free describes poultry that was not raised in cages. However, it is also important to know what the birds were fed and if the were allowed access to pasture and fresh air.
Certified Naturally Grown: The farm is certified by the nonprofit Certified Naturally Grown, an alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program. The standards and growing requirements are no less strict than the NOP rules.
Certified Organic: The farm is “Certified Organic” by a USDA-approved certifying agency, and growing practices meet the standards of the National Organic Program. Organic farming is based on a system that maintains and replenishes soil fertility and does not use toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organic meat and poultry must be fed only organically-grown feed (without any animal byproducts) and cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A partnership between consumers and farmers in which members buy shares of the farm's harvest and enjoy regular allotments of food throughout the growing season. For farmers, this provides much needed cash flow for the beginning of the season as well as a ready market and community of supporters. Shareholders join in the risks of the growing season but reap the benefits of the harvest. Each CSA farm has its own pricing structure, disbursement schedule, and some have work requirements. Signups for CSA shares often begin in February by directly contacting the farm. CSAs are good choices for people looking for a wide variety of produce and a closer connection to a farm.
Confined Animal Feeding Operation: Rather than raise animals on pasture or in open spaces, many large farms raise animals in confined spaces with little or no access to pasture or sunlight.
Conventional: The farm uses synthetic inputs such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides and/or herbicides.
Cover Crops: As part of sustainable agriculture, cover crops are planted to allow fields to rest and rebuild soil while not allowing weeds to become prevelant. Soil quality is increased through tillingthe cover crop in, increasing organic matter in the soil.
Free Range: Animals are given daily access to the outdoors, but are not raised primarily on pasture.
Grassfed (100%): Animals only eat grasses from start to finish.
Grassfed with Grain Supplement: Animals are raised on pasture, and a controlled amount of grain is eventually introduced into their diet.
Heirloom v. Hybrid. v. GMO: Heirloom vegetables are vegetables whose seeds have been saved for generations and passed down. By contrast, seeds from hybrid plants are not true to type and so are not good for saving. This requires that the grower purchase new seeds every year. Hybrids have been bred for specific qualities but have not been genetically modified. GMO plants have been genetically engineered. This can be done by combining DNA of different plant varieties or by introducing genes from other species, such as fish.
Heritage Breeds: The farm raises rare and endangered breeds of livestock to reintroduce genetic diversity and prevent extinction.
Integrated Pest Management (I.P.M.): The farm uses a pest-management strategy that includes a combination of biological, cultural, and chemical tools to reduce crop damage from insects, diseases and weeds. Pesticides are used minimally and judiciously as only one part of the pest management strategy.
Low-spray (fruit): The farm uses a reduced synthetic pesticide spray program relative to the region’s conventional spray practices.
Natural: The label “natural” means that meat and poultry products can be only minimally processed and cannot contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients. The term is not regulated for use on non-meat products.
No Added Hormones: Animals are raised without added growth hormones.
No Antibiotics Used: No antibiotics are administered to the animals during their lifetime.
No Routine Antiobiotics Used: Antibiotics are not given to the animals to prevent disease, but may be administered if the animals become ill.
No Synthetic Chemicals Used: The farm does not use any synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
Organic (Exempt): The farm’s practices meet the standards of the National Organic Program, but the farm is not required to be “certified” because annual gross sales are less than $5,000.
Pasture-Raised: Animals are raised outdoors on pasture in a humane, ecologically sustainable manner, rather than in a feedlot or confined facility.
Raw Milk: Raw milk has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization was implemented due to safety concerns, but pasteurization also kills the enzymes that many feel are very healthy and beneficial.
Transitional: The farm follows organic management practices, but has not yet fulfilled time requirements to be certified organic (land must be free of prohibited materials for a minimum of 3 years to be certified).