Late last year Slow Food Upstate embarked on the mission of having the first Earth Market in the United States. A Earth Market is a farmers market with the strictest standards possible on food production and the quality of the product.
The Earth Market’s first started in Europe and so some of the rules for the American version simply wouldn’t work. For example, some food producers for the Greenville Earth Market are coming from a further distance than 40 kilometers. The United States is just too big of country for that rule to work. However, some rules were not going to be compromised. The biggest was "the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is prohibited at all stages of production of products present at Earth Markets." For South Carolina, this meant no poultry would be present at the start of the market because there is no affordable and available non-GMO poultry seed for producers to use.
This was a pretty big deal. This dropped a bunch farms off the list of possible producers who could sell and, of course, limited the food options for the Earth Market. However, the board of Slow Food Upstate felt this to be an important item and no one was willing to budge on this item.
Standing up for these high standards ended up paying off more than anyone could imagine. Not only is Greenville, South Carolina having the first in the United States Earth Market, but the decision to be GMO free is encouraging producers to start finding ways to meet these high standards.
As Janette Wesley, President of Slow Food Upstate, wrote this morning in an email:
The first from Anthony Owens, Windy Ridge Farm, the apple farmer who decided to grow non-GMO poultry feed when we announced the dilemma back in January that none of the farms in the southeast could purchase non-GMO poultry feed because it was not produced here, and to purchase it from a long distance supplier was not cost effective. This dilemma immediately eliminated any poultry or poultry products from the market as the rules of the market clearly state No GMO's in any part of the food production process.
Mr. Owens, who has planted the field that will be ready this fall, will apply to participate in the August and September markets with his apples. I am very pleased for this, as not only are his apples delicious and very natural, but he is a well respected farmer in our community, and just his presence and the conversation alone of farmers to farmers could go a long way in helping other farmers to get in the game of feeding their poultry non-GMO grains, allowing us one day to be able to accept eggs, chicken, turkey, etc and bringing this great problem to the forefront of the educational battle to the public and press.
This issue not only faces our community but a wide area of the South Eastern USA, from Virginia, to Tennessee, to Florida, and could potentially help to bring availability of non-GMO feed to numerous small poultry farms who would choose to feed in a clean manner if it were available and cost effective.
As well, one of the vendors who will be at the market, Daniel Parson, Parson's Produce at Bush River Farms primarily vegetables, has decided to raise Naked Neck Chickens (I like the sound of that one) and is pooling together with other vendors through an organization called Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to order non-GMO organic feed from Virginia, in order to bring the price down.
As you can see the Earth Market in Greenville has already made a difference, not only in Greenville, but to farms across South Carolina before it has even begun and before officially certified, and will potentially may change the face of non-GMO poultry farming across the entire southeastern USA.
Honestly, I’m pleasantly shocked at how sticking so firmly to this standard made change happen so quickly.
Often times in the web business you’re so worried about making your client happy or getting a product out the door you compromise on two too many things. “Good enough for government work,” you might say as you ship a site without every page having meta tags or a small display bug. This Earth Market example reminds me that it is better to set the high standard and have your clients strive to hit that standard because they might just surprise you with the results.